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Whistle While You Work (Out)!

Most of us listen to music (or television, or podcasts) as we work out. If you’ve ever used a workout video, you’ll have heard the dulcet tones of the Casio keyboard somewhere in the background. But all that music isn’t just to keep you from getting bored, or to help you maintain your pace. Did you know that music has a real impact on your health, and on your fitness routine?

Dr. Len Kravitz (yes, that’s his real name), has been studying the impact of music on fitness for years. In 2007, he released a paper on the subject that looked at “the ergogenic and psychophysical effects of music in an attempt to understand the relationship between the physical stimulus of the music and the sensory responses that may enable the exerciser to achieve better results.” Basically: does music help you work harder? As it turns out, it does: subjects who chose their own workout tunes had a much lower perceived exertion level than those who did not.

The tempo of the music available also has an impact. As The New York Times notes, good workout music should have the same beats per minute (BPM) as your heart during a workout: between 120 and 140. Analyzing the tempo of most dance club music will reveal that yes indeed, the Top 40 hits you hear on the dance floor and on the gym floor are related for a reason. They hit that optimal sweetspot on a regular basis. So yes, there is a reason you hear the same thumping bass track in most gyms — although yes, you are welcome to ask for it to be turned down.

This isn’t to say that you can’t work out to whatever sounds you like. And certain songs are definitely better as workout material than others: you wouldn’t necessarily want to bring along your Sex Pistols record to your restorative yoga class. And if listening to Jhian Ghomeshi interview artists on The Current is what keeps you interested, then keep that up.

For the rest of us, here are some songs our personal trainers have mentioned as favourites:

Florence and the Machine, “Shake It Out” (favourite of our Bayview Trainer of the Month, Karoline Kaminski)

City and Colour, “Thirst” (favourite of our Promenade Trainer of the Month, Josee Provencher)

Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody” (favourite of Pickering’s Trainer of the Month, Shari Coulter)