It might seem meta to blast Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” the next time you are, in fact, running up a hill, but the science behind music’s ability to improve your workout is sound. Countless studies indicate listening to songs with a moderate-to-fast tempo, between 170 and 190 beats per minute (bpm), can boost workout motivation and lower your perceived effort mid-workout.
One Italian study concluded the faster the beat, the easier a workout feels, a huge finding that nods to the fact our physical limits are largely mental. We usually tap out because we think we’ve hit our limit when, in reality, our body still has more gas in the tank. Moreover, if you’re doing a long effort (think marathon or ultra distance), it can be beneficial to find songs with rhythmic patterns that mimic your movement and create a sort of feedback loop.
Ultimately, music can yield better performance, improve and/or regulate your mood, and shift attention away from those intense screamy-barfy efforts so you can endure more for longer. All you need to do is find the music that speaks to you. Maybe it’s the Foo Fighters to get you out the door, Eminem to get past the grueling midpoint of your workout, and The Strokes to take you on home.
We tapped Peloton instructors for the tracks they turn to when they need a kick in the pants to get (and stay!) motivated, as well as their own relationship with fitness and music.
50 Best Workout Songs, According to Peloton Instructors
John Hosking Tread instructor: “Music is what gets me up in the morning, charges me up for a run, inspires me for a painting, and calms me down in the evening. [It’s] what makes me remember moments in my life and makes me feel most alive and present. There’s always music playing in my house or in my headphones.”