If you want a good pump, you have to pump up the jams. That’s according to researchers at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan’s campus, who found that listening to upbeat music could make a rigorous workout—such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT)—not seem so bad. Not only that, but it also seemed to improve one’s performance during exercise.
“Music is typically used as a dissociative strategy,” Matthew Stork, a postdoctoral fellow at UBC, said 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.”
Stork specified the music had to be “upbeat,” meaning songs with a fast tempo, for it to be effective. For the study, 24 British adults ran three 20-second all-out sprints on three different occasions—one with the upbeat music, another without any audio, and a final sprint with a podcast that had no music. Those who listened to the upbeat music reported enjoying HIIT more than those who didn’t, and had higher heart rates and peak power during the sessions.
“We believed that motivational music would help people enjoy the exercise more, but we were surprised about the elevated heart rate,” Stork said. “That was a novel finding.”
Music was particularly effective for people who were considered inactive, meaning they don’t exercise often. Researchers said listening to upbeat music could lead to adults sticking to an exercise regimen. Of course, this isn’t news to most loyal gym-goers. Just about any weightlifter can be spotted with a pair of headphones in/on their ears. Some people, such as WWE Superstar and overall fitness freak John Cena, tend to stay away from the tunes in the gym. That’s their opinion, but we’ll stick with what science tells us.
This doesn’t give you an excuse to scroll through Instagram (as Lou Ferrigno recently reminded us) between sets, as past research has found that decreases intensity. So set up your playlist before you get to the gym, stick the headphones in, and get to work.