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Why music helps when working out

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A variety of recent studies have ex­­plored the connections be­­tween people’s motivation during workouts and the music they listen to as they exercise. What they’ve found is that music does make a difference.

Experts used to believe that the faster a person was working out, the faster the music tempo should be. Recent research has found that the “sweet spot” for workout music is between 125 and 140 beats per minute when people aren’t trying to coordinate their movements with the beat, says Costas Karageorghis, School of Sport and Education at Brunel University in London.

A lot of popular music falls within the optimum tempo range, says Kara­­georghis. Even classical music fans can find songs that fit that de­­scrip­­tion—for ex­­amp­­le, Bee­­­­tho­­­­­ven’s Sym­­­­phony No. 3 in E-flat ma­­­jor,  and Mo­­zart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor.

Other studies show that when people synchronize their movements to a musical beat, their bodies can handle more exertion during exercise.

“When people run with music their rate of perceived exertion is lower than if they don’t use music or other devices,” says Gershon Tenenbaum, Florida State University.

People simply don’t notice things such as difficulty breathing, sweating or stiff muscles as much when they are listening to music, says David-Lee Priest, a researcher at the University of East Anglia in England.  

 — Adapted from “Optimal Music for the Gym,” Sumathi Reddy, The Wall Street Journal.

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