Thursday, July 11, 2013

What you should REALLY listen to when you exercise

Everyone knows that music makes workouts more productive. But do different types of music yield different results? Which genre should you be pumping through your speakers? 

If you've ever wondered about that, today's your lucky day! I voluntarily subjected myself to different genres of music while exercising to see which ones are the best tunes to workout to. You can thank me later. 

Here's my hypothesis
The genre of music that boosts performance the most is the subject's most favourite genre. 
In my case, that genre would be alternative/metal. I think it sounds like a perfectly plausible outcome, so let me get into the method of the experiment. 
The fitness challenge is to exercise on the stationary bike for 16 minutes on the Fat Burner mode set at Level 10. The exercise is to be done first thing in the morning after waking up at 7.30am, before breakfast, to a 20-minute playlist of a chosen musical style, and to a control of exercising without music. 
Before much ado, here are 

Now that you've mocked/admired my musical selection, let's get into the nitty gritty. Despite my favourite genre being alternative/metal, all the songs in the playlist are songs that I enjoy, and of fairly upbeat tempo.

Results were measured based on the number of calories burnt, distance cycled (km), and how motivated I felt during the workout. I've also picked out songs from each genre that got me really pumped (Power Songs).

Here's what I discovered:

Power Song
Surprisingly everything
(Explanation below)
Hip Hop
Pump It
Black Skinhead
Real Life

Party Rock Anthem
Scare Me
The Infected

No Music

The results are pretty close, but in general, the more Power Songs there were, the better the performance and the better the mood. While the Power Songs were in different genres, they shared similar characteristics:
  • A strong bass ~ This activates a primitive part of our brain that then stimulates the adrenal glands. 
  • Anthemic ~ It's like being a superhero with a theme song!
  • Speed ~ It needs at least 120 beats per minute 
  • Something you enjoy ~ It doesn't have to be your favourite song, but it shouldn't put you off either. 
I'm disappointed alt/metal ranked last, but the playlist I chose definitely lacked Power Songs. Sadface.

Why did Orchestral music score so high? 

Bear in mind, I'm a Classical musician, so these results reflect that. The Orchestral pieces were anthemic, evocative, rhythmically-driven pieces, but had the added advantage of creating a strong emotional response. My mood was euphoric, the music was accompanied by strong imagery in my mind, and I felt like I was soaring.

Be warned, it won't work for everyone, so don't jump on the Mozart bandwagon just yet.

Can you identify with my experience? What's your Power Song? 


  1. Wow, this is really cool Hui! I'd be interested to do a similar experiment myself - music is such a big part of my workouts! :)

    1. You should! Let me know how you go! I'd love to compare results :)