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Tune in and tone up

If your exercise routine is becoming dull, boring or tedious and you’re looking for a much needed motivational boost, turn on the music and play your favorite upbeat song — it can do wonders for your workout.

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Research by Matthew Stork, of the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus, found that listening to upbeat music while doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercises helped people enjoy their workouts more, boost their performance and raise their motivation to do more sessions.

Stork's study involved two components, all of which were done at Brunei University London. He collaborated with Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., who has already done research on music's effects on sports and exercise.

The first part involved Stork gathering a panel of British adults. They were tasked to listen to fast-tempo songs and rate their motivational qualities. The top three most motivational songs were utilized in the experiment.

Twenty-four participants were then asked to complete three sets of 20-second all-out sprints, amounting to a minute’s worth of exercise. This workout was done either with motivational music, a podcast without music or with no audio at all. The total exercise period lasted 10 minutes, including short rests between the sprints and periods for warmup and cool-down.

Greater enjoyment, elevated heart rates and increased peak power were seen in people who exercised while listening to the upbeat songs, compared to those who worked out while listening to the podcast and those without any audio. According to Stork, the elevated heart rates are linked to a concept called “entrainment.” He explains:

“Humans have an innate tendency to alter the frequency of their biological rhythms toward that of musical rhythms. In this case, the fast-tempo music may have increased people’s heart rate during the exercise.”

This is not the first study that demonstrated the incredible power of music, particularly during a workout. Previous studies found that upbeat music can increase your endurance, encourage speed and help you stay focused longer.  Research has also shown that listening to music while exercising boosted cognitive levels and verbal fluency skills in people diagnosed with coronary artery disease, a condition that’s been linked to a decline in cognitive abilities.

Music can even help relieve acute or chronic pain — if you’re feeling sore after an intense workout, playing soothing songs afterward may help you feel better.

So, before heading to the gym or starting your home workout, you may want to put together a motivational playlist.  Try to keep the sound mixed, and pick songs that’ll keep your energy up. You can also look for finished playlists or videos online that’ll suit your music taste, and keep your mind and body pumped up the next time you exercise.