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What Soundtrack should I use for my workout?

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

Understanding the impact of the audio used during workouts can enhance your fitness experience significantly. Whether it's Pilates, yoga, or a gym workout, the right audio can help set the tone, keep you motivated, and help you achieve your fitness goals. This article explores the best types of audio for different fitness activities and the benefits it can offer.

Woman running in a fitness club with headsets

Pilates Workout

Pilates focuses on controlled movements and breathing that require concentration. Listening to something overly distracting, such as lectures with complex information, might not be beneficial. Soft, instrumental music, ambient sounds, or natural soundscapes can be effective during Pilates. This audio provides a rhythm to align the body movements and help you stay focused.

Renowned instructor Cassey Ho provides upbeat, popular music in her Blogilates classes. Another example is the 'Pilates Music and Sounds' playlist on Spotify, which offers ambient tracks to guide your Pilates sessions.

Yoga Workout

Like Pilates, yoga demands mindfulness, control over breathing, and a strong connection with your body. Music, ambient sounds, or mantra chanting can be beneficial in this context.

For instance, the 'Yoga & Meditation' playlist on Apple Music combines soothing tunes and gentle nature sounds designed for relaxation. Music by artists such as Snatam Kaur, who blends traditional Sikh mantras with contemporary melodies, can add a meditative aspect to your yoga practice.

Gym Workouts

In contrast, gym workouts can benefit from a different type of audio. High-energy music with an upbeat tempo can keep you motivated during intensive sessions. Podcasts or audiobooks could accompany low-intensity or steady-state cardio workouts. Fast-paced music genres like EDM, rock, or pop can help increase your pace and energy. Spotify’s 'Workout' playlist is a popular choice among gym-goers.

On the other hand, engaging podcasts for some might include 'The Joe Rogan Experience' or 'The Michelle Obama Podcast' — these keep you entertained during your workout without lowering your exercise intensity.

In addition to the suitable audio types for each workout, smartphone apps like 'Aaptiv' provide trainer-led, music-driven workouts across all three categories.

How does the music influence our brain

Music and other types of selected audio can profoundly impact the brain during a workout. This influence mainly stems from the brain's complex processing of acoustic signals and its interplay with areas involved in movement, motivation, and emotion.

Music and Rhythm Processing

When we listen to music during a workout, the auditory cortex in our brain processes the sound signals. The rhythm of the music then interacts with the motor system - the part of the brain that controls movement. This linkage can impact our pace, synchronization, and coordination during exercises, a phenomenon often referred to as "rhythmic entrainment."

Releasing Neurotransmitters

Music and audio content that we perceive positively stimulate the release of specific brain chemicals, the neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and endorphins, which contribute to feelings of happiness, excitement, and motivation.

Dopamine is often associated with the brain's reward system, which is why our favorite songs can bring pleasure and motivation. Uptempo, energetic music or interesting and engaging audiobooks/podcasts can stimulate the release of these neurotransmitters, making us feel more motivated and enhancing our exercise intensity or duration.

Distraction from Fatigue:

Audio content can also serve a distraction, diverting the brain's attention from signals of fatigue during a challenging workout. This effect can increase exercise endurance and efficiency. For instance, an engaging podcast or uplifting music can help you push past mental and physical exhaustion during a tough gym session.

Regulating Mood and Emotion:

Lastly, music and audio can also regulate our moods and emotion. Upbeat music often assists in inducing positive feelings and dynamic energy, which can enhance performance during workouts like Pilates or gym sessions. Conversely, calm and tranquil sounds or music can support relaxation, mindfulness, and body awareness during activities like yoga.


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