The Perfect Playlist, According to Science


The next time you lace up your sneakers, crank up the tunes. Working out to music can increase endurance, improve performance and reduce the perception of fatigue, according to 2020 research.


The data showed women who listened to high-tempo music (with 170–190 beats per minute) perceived their workouts as easier than those who listened to music with a lower tempo or no music at all.

“[M]usic can be strategically chosen in order to induce physio-psychological responses that lead to better performance, experience and adherence to exercise as well as regulating mood and shifting attention away from discomfort,” explains study co-author Andrea De Giorgio, PhD, associate professor in physiological psychology and emotions at eCampus University, Novedrate, Italy. “[It] can shift our attention from fatigue to music itself or mark time [so] the athlete does not accelerate or slow down but keeps the pace constant.”

Matching your cadence to the beat of the music can also lead to improved speed, especially among women, according to research published in PLOS One.

High-tempo songs stimulate the brain and the rhythmic patterns help you execute movements and avoid errors, De Giorgio adds. It has such an impact on performance that music is often banned during marathons and other athletic competitions.


Working out to music can increase endurance up to 15%. A separate study published in the International Journal of Physiology, Pathophysiology and Pharmacology showed similar results: The group that listened to music had an average workout time of 37 minutes compared to just 22 minutes for those who broke a sweat in silence. A heart-pumping beat was more effective for increasing workout time than music with fewer beats per minute.

There is no shortage of songs that fall within the 170–190 beats per minute range. Here are 10 upbeat tunes to add to your workout playlist:

  • “Lose Yourself,” by Eminem: 171 bpm
  • “Empire State of Mind.” by Jay Z: 173 bpm
  • “I Would Die 4 U,” by Prince: 180 bpm
  • “Don’t Stop Me Now,” by Queen: 180 bpm
  • “Chattahoochee,” by Alan Jackson: 180 bpm
  • “Wonderland,” by Taylor Swift: 184 bpm
  • “What if I,” by Meghan Trainor: 185 bpm
  • “(You) Got What I Need,” by Freddie Scott: 187 bpm
  • “Karma Chameleon,” by Culture Club: 188 bpm
  • “Lay Down Sally,” by Eric Clapton: 190 bpm

When choosing your workout playlist, Avinash Thakare, PhD, associate professor at All India Institute of Medical Sciences Bhopal, and co-author of the International Journal of Physiology, Pathophysiology and Pharmacology study suggests combining science with your own musical tastes.


“Boost your physical fitness and endurance by listening to fast-tempo music of your own choice,” Thakare says.

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