- Pop is the top genre among all types of exercise music.
- 54% of avid exercisers prefer throwbacks, while 46% prefer modern music.
- Most exercise music averages 125-127 beats per minute, except yoga, which averages 105.
- Exercisers listening to pop (33%), hip-hop/rap (32%), and classic rock (31%) while exercising set new personal records within the past month!
Hitting the gym, riding a bike, or taking a hot yoga class are excellent forms of exercise. But did you know that what you listen to while working out can impact your results?
To dive deeper into the mind/body/music connection, we surveyed 1,000 fitness fanatics about their preferred playlists while exercising. We also used Spotify’s application programming interface (API) to identify thousands of workout songs and their genres, valences, and tempos. Then, we analyzed our findings to see what types of tunes push people to perform better during a workout.
Are your music choices doing you any favors, or could they use an update? Read on to find out.
Music To Make You Sweat
If you listen to music while exercising, you’re not alone. Most people know that music can help motivate you during a workout. But do specific genres reign supreme? And which ones are the best for each type of exercise? Let’s find out.
Pop was the go-to music choice for working out, regardless of exercise type. However, hip-hop and rap were a close second. The most popular artist of the pop genre was Michael Jackson, while Eminem reigned in the hip-hop and rap category. Queen was the favorite among classic rock lovers, and Metallica was No. 1 for heavy metal diehards. Although EDM was the least popular workout music, David Guetta, Alan Walker, and Skrillex tied for first as the most preferred artists in that category.
Workout music is subjective, but did you know there’s a science behind choosing certain soundtracks to get the most out of your exercise? Some of the best tunes have a high number of beats per minute (BPMs) and a rhythm that’s easy to coordinate movements with. That might explain why catchy pop songs are more common at the gym than something like free-form jazz. Listening to music also offers many other workout benefits, like easing stress and reducing pain. No wonder it can help you work out longer!
What Drives the Music?
We’ve seen that music tastes vary among exercise enthusiasts, but why might that be? Next, we stripped the music down to its elements to learn what people listen for in their workout songs.
First, we looked at the valence, or musical positiveness, of the playlists used for each type of exercise. Values closer to 1.0 sound more positive, while those closer to 0.0 sound more negative. For example, the song “Rap God” by Eminem has a valence of 0.6, and Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” has a 0.9. These ratings show that Jackson’s song had more positive vibes.
Strength training, spinning, and jogging/running music all tied with an average valence of 0.5. Positive tunes can motivate you during a workout, which must be why spinning enthusiasts viewed motivational lyrics as the most important element of their exercise songs. But a song’s beat was the key aspect for 38% of all those we surveyed.
Most of the exercise music we analyzed had an average of 125-127 BPM, but cool, calm, and collected yogis preferred theirs slightly slower at around 105 BPM. As yoga is a meditative exercise, accompanying it with music that evokes feelings of peace and balance would undoubtedly enhance that factor. Why else would fitness instructors opt for soothing music during their yoga sessions?
Rather than how fast or slow a song’s beat is, more than a quarter of respondents (26%) said tone was the most critical aspect of workout music. Tone refers to the quality of a sound; for example, different instruments and singing voices can create the same note, but all sound different due to their unique tone.
Whatever elements you’re most tuned into, remember to keep your playlists fresh. Check out some remixed versions of your favorite songs to add some variety, or consider building multiple playlists to select from depending on the type of workout you’re doing. For any instructors reading, play songs that match the energy you’re looking for from your trainees. The possibilities are endless, and attendees might get more out of your classes if you explore multiple musical avenues with them!
Let the Music Move You Forward
Jamming to your favorite hits can mean the difference between a good workout and a great one. Next, respondents shared how much their favorite genres and artists have helped them hit new personal records in the gym and on the track.
While the pop, hip-hop/rap, and classic rock genres were neck and neck as to which were most likely to help listeners raise the bar, pop music was most likely to do so. Taylor Swift and Michael Jackson helped push people into their highest gear, as did Drake, Billie Eilish, and Justin Bieber. Meanwhile, Shawn Mendes had his fans running the fastest mile compared to the other artists we analyzed: 8.1 minutes on average. Even classic rock lovers ran a 9.2, which pales in comparison.
But you don’t need to listen to Shawn Mendes to improve your mile run. For a faster sprint, all you need is the right playlist.
The Beat Goes On
Pop was the most favored music genre among all exercise types, with Michael Jackson’s tunes guiding 28% of respondents toward a great workout. It’s no surprise that the King of Pop’s high BPMs were a go-to choice, as most respondents considered the beat the most crucial element of exercise music. However, slower and softer music was more beneficial for calmer practices like yoga.
In the end, it’s the results that matter, and most of those who have set new personal records listened to pop music while doing so. Shawn Mendes listeners, in particular, ran the fastest mile. While we’re not suggesting that everyone listen to pop during their workouts, studies have shown that keeping your playlists fresh can benefit your workouts. So, before your next training session, consider shaking up your selected tunes. Who knows — it may unlock another level within you.
For this study, we used the Spotify API to identify songs on numerous exercise playlists. We compiled a total of 33 playlists with titles that contained any of the following terms: “spin,” “cycling,” “walking,” “jogging,” “strength training,” and “yoga.” We excluded playlists within this list that included the term “workout.” In total, these playlists contained 5,411 songs by 1,508 different artists. We gathered the artists’ associated genres and each song’s valence and tempo.
Additionally, we surveyed 1,000 fitness fanatics (people who reported exercising three or more times per week) regarding their music preferences while exercising. The mean age of respondents was 35 years old. Among them, 60% were male, and 40% were female. Respondents comprised the following generational breakdown: 20% Gen Z, 51% millennials, 19% Gen X, and 10% baby boomers.
No statistical testing was performed on this data, so the above claims are based on means alone. As such, this content is exploratory and presented for informational purposes only.
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