RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—We all know we should exercise more, if not to shed pounds then to boost our mood, improve our self-esteem, help us feel younger, prevent cancer, and any one of the hundred health-boosting benefits that a few minutes on the treadmill can bestow. But it can be difficult to maintain your enthusiasm for breaking a sweat when each gym session looms before you as nothing more than a boring 40 minutes of pedaling or running in place.
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One surefire way to spice up your exercise routine is to add music. Music can help you get more variety in your exercise by allowing you to vary your pace. It can get you to push yourself harder, and even distract you from the difficulty or length of a workout, says Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, chief science officer at the American Council on Exercise. “There is a tendency of music to increase arousal, the desire to move in time with the tempo,” he says. “It's a way to get people to exercise at a higher pace and distract from discomfort.” And science backs him up. A 2009 study by the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences showed that people on stationary bikes cycled faster and covered more distance when faster music was playing.
Here are 5 ways to crank your next workout up to 11:
# 1: FIND THE RIGHT BEAT
When it comes to finding music that matches your desired effort levels, it's all about beats per minute (BPM), says Kari Dougan, CI, CPT, a personal trainer based in Allentown, PA. “Use 120 to 135 BPM for walking at about four to five miles per hour. For running, you should use 140 to 150 BPM for a 10- or nine-minute mile,” she advises; an easy way to determine BPM is to play a few seconds of your favorite song while watching a stopwatch. Tap out the beats with the music and see how many beats fill five seconds, then multiply that by 12. Pick songs with a repeated chorus for interval training, adds Dougan. You can walk, run, or cycle at one pace during the verses and then go a little faster during the chorus. "Jai Ho" by the Pussycat Dolls is a good choice for intervals.
# 2: FIND MUSIC YOU LIKE
“We perform best to music that engages us,” says Bryant. So using existing music on your MP3 player is a good place to start. If you don't feel like you're the greatest at determining rhythm or beat, Dougan recommends using a site called beaTunes.com, which will determine the beats per minute of all of the songs in your music library, making it easy to stick to a single fast pace or to vary your paces for interval training. “Varying the music tempos allows you to act as your own personal trainer,” says Bryant, which yields great results. Choose a four- to five-minute fast song, such as "Hot and Cold" by Katy Perry, then follow that with a slower song like "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" by the Police, for about five minutes, and so on.
# 3: GET MUSICAL HELP
If you would prefer to just buy a CD rather than make your own playlist, MyWalkingMusic.com has more than 40 workout mixes, available in either CD or MP3 format. Paces range from 118 to 134 steps per minute on a 30-minute walk (assuming you are walking to the beat of the music), and the styles vary from boy-band faves to country-crooner ballads and hits of the '80s, like the Banarama song "Cruel Summer," which is around 120 BPM.
Another website called DJsteveboy.com offers free downloadable podcasts with playlists of all different types of music, ranging from 130 BPM to 160 BPM. You can subscribe to his podcast for new mixes every week or check out the other links on his site for music more suited to interval training.
# 4: DOWNLOAD A PERSONAL TRAINER
If you're convinced that music alone won't get you through a workout session, get an extra push with your own personal Cardio Coach. Rather than a simple collection of songs, each downloadable MP3 workout features a coach telling you when to increase your speed, add hills (if you are running), take a break, and so on, all in time with the music. These aren't free—they run about $14.95—but they cater to all types of workouts (using a treadmill, running outdoors, biking, hiking, swimming, and more) and various levels of experience and difficulty. Until then, just follow some of Lady Gaga's advice and "Just Dance."
# 5: MIX IT UP
Still feeling, despite your musical selections, that you're headed to a dull gym session? Here are some more of the songs Dougan chooses for her exercise classes. “I like a mix of old and new songs; you can walk, run, and cycle to all of these,” she says. Check out "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns and Roses, above, and click on the links below for more of her suggestions.
Katy Perry: Hot and Cold
Kardinal Offishall: Dangerous
Kid Cudi: Day and Nite
What tunes do you use for your workout? List your faves in the comment section below, or on our Facebook page!
Published on: July 26, 2010