Music has a strange effect on us. It can stir feelings and drive us. Ever heard Eye of the Tiger and not felt pumped up?
Scientists have been studying music and its impact on humans for some time. They say that the number of beats in a song can change how you feel.
Beats Per Minute (BPM) is the tempo of a song, and indicates the number of times a quarter note is played in 60 seconds. Wikipedia has helpfully provided an example of what 120 BPM sounds like in music:
Beats Per Minute is also how the human heart rate is measured, quantifying the number of times your heart beats in 60 seconds. The average resting heart rate for anyone above 10 years is 60-100 BPM, while the average resting heart rate for well-trained athletes is 40-60 BPM, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
What’s the Right Heart Rate for You?
When you’re exercising, you need to hit a “target heart rate” that is above your resting rate. That target heart rate differs based on your age and fitness, and the AHA has a quick heart rate guide:
If you’re just starting to work out regularly, aim for 50% of your target zone during the first few weeks. Over six months, build up slowly to 85%. After six months or more, you may be able to exercise comfortably at up to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate, the AHA says.
While exercising, you can calculate your heart rate with devices like the Apple Watch or fitness bands like FitBit and Jawbone. Most treadmills and other cardio-based exercise machines also have heart rate monitors built into them.
The idea, of course, is to jog or run in a way where your steps match the beats. That’s going to factor in your speed, stride length, and BPM. Run2Rhythm offers a chart for running and a chart for treadmills to calculate the best possible combination for you.
Once you have your desired heart rate, it’s time to create a playlist accordingly.
How to Make Your Own Workout Playlist
Here’s the good news. If you aren’t a music aficionado and just want something to run to, then these seven beat-syncing apps will get you running. They’re available for Android and iOS, and auto-generate playlists based on your preferences (like with Spotify Running) or with their own mix (like with Pace DJ).
However, that still doesn’t give you a playlist of your favorite songs.
But don’t worry, there’s a software with which you can make your own playlist, attuned to your BPM needs.
- Download and install BeaTunes 4.5 for Windows or Mac OS X. It’s a free 2-week trial, after which it costs $34.95.
- Start the program and point BeaTunes to your music folder or iTunes Library. If using iTunes, make sure you have enabled “Share iTunes Library XML with other applications” in Menu > Preferences > Advanced.
- Once BeaTunes loads your music library, select the songs you want to get the BPM for.
- Right-click on selected songs and click “Analyze”.
- In the pop-up box that appears, check boxes for “Estimate BPM”, “Replace Existing BPM”, “Use online resource” (and make sure your Internet connection is active). Set Algorithm to “OnsetPeak” and Range to “Automatic”.
- Click “Analyze”, which will switch to the “Analysis” tab and run it.
- Your library will be automatically updated, and the BPM will be added to your music’s ID3 tags.
Since BeaTunes is free for two weeks, you can get your entire library analyzed quickly this way. It’s a good app to pay for too, if you want analysis in the future.
I couldn’t find a reliable free alternative on Mac OS X. But Windows has BPM Counter by AbyssMedia, which is a good freeware to analyze the BPM of all yours songs.
If you want to find out the BPM of any one song, I recommend visiting SongBPM.com. It’s a dead simple web app where you just have to key in the artist’s name and the song’s title. SongBPM will search online resources to find the track you are talking about, and tell you its BPM.
You can also immediately download the song from Amazon or stream it on Spotify.
The Scientific Workout Playlist
Just in case you can’t be bothered to make your own workout playlist from scratch, scientists have made one for you. Spotify collaborated with Dr. Costas Karageorghis, Deputy Head (Research) of the School of Sport and Education at Brunel University in the UK, to compile an “ultimate workout playlist”.
More than 6.7 million playlists where studies before these 16 made it to the final playlist. Dr Costas Karageorghis said,
“This means that at the point when your body is shouting ‘STOP’, the music has the power to lift your mood and beckon you on. This is why your choice of music for exercise has important implications for how likely you are to stick to a New Year exercise regime.”
- Roar – Katy Perry – 92 BPM (Mental preparation)
- Talk Dirty – Jason Derulo ft 2 Chainz – 100 BPM (Stretching)
- Skip To The Good Bit – Rizzle Kicks – 105 BPM (Stretching)
- Get Lucky – Daft Punk ft Pharrel Williams – 116 BPM (Aerobic/Warm up)
- Move – Little Mix – 120 BPM (Aerobic/Warm up)
- Need U 100% – Duke Dumont ft A*M*E – 124 BPM (Cardio training, low intensity)
- You Make Me – Avicii – 125 BPM (Cardio training, low intensity)
- Feel My Rhythm – Viralites – 128 BPM (Cardio training, moderate intensity)
- Timber – Pitbull ft Ke$ha – 130 BPM (Cardio training, moderate intensity)
- Applause – Lady Gaga – 140 BPM (Cardio training, high intensity)
- Can’t Hold Us – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft Ray Dalton – 147 BPM (Cardio training, very high intensity)
- Happy – Pharrell Williams – 160 BPM (Cardio training, very high intensity)
- The Monster – Eminem ft Rihanna – 110 BPM (Strength training)
- Love Me Again – John Newman – 126 BPM (Strength training)
- Get Down – Groove Armada ft Stush and Red Rat – 127 BPM (Strength training)
- #thatPOWER – will.i.am ft Justin Bieber – 128 BPM (Strength training)
How Do You Psyche Up to Work Out?
There’s an entire Reddit thread about the #1 workout song, but we want to know which song do you use to get pumped up to start.
Eye of the Tiger? Chariots of Fire? My pick: Prodigy’s Breathe.
Image Credit: Couple running by Kaspars Grinvalds via Shutterstock