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This Simple Tweak Can Make Exercising Feel Easier

Whether you’re doing your regular workout or a more difficult routine than you’re used to, exercising can be rough. But new research shows there’s an easy way to motivate yourself to power through — and it’s all about what music you’re listening to. 

A June 2019 study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that listening to upbeat, fast-tempo, and motivational songs can actually help make a tough workout seem less challenging, even if you don’t work out often. Researchers studied 24 “insufficiently active” adults who tried a rigorous workout under three conditions: listening to motivational music, a podcast, or no audio at all. 

Ultimately, participants reported enjoying the exercise much more when listening to the motivational music as opposed to the other scenarios. But even more interestingly, they also showed elevated heart rates and peak power in the music session. So whether you prefer classic upbeat tracks like “I Will Survive” and “Physical” or more modern tunes, it just might be the perfect time to update your playlist with the fastest, happiest bops you’ve got.

“Music is typically used as a dissociative strategy,” said study author Matthew Stork, PhD, in a press release. “This means that it can draw your attention away from the body’s physiological responses to exercise such as increased heart rate or sore muscles. But with high-intensity exercise, it seems that music is most effective when it has a fast tempo and is highly motivational.”

While researchers somewhat expected the participants to enjoy working out more while listening to fun tunes, they were (pleasantly) surprised by the folks’ elevated heart rate. They think it may be due to a phenomenon called entrainment. As Dr. Stork explained: “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. It’s incredible how powerful music can be.”

This sounds like music to our ears!

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