How music can help keep those New Years fitness resolutions


Salutations, I’m neuroscientist Dr Jack Lewis. I’ve always been fascinated by how our brains work and have spent a lifetime learning all I can about them. Working with over the past few months I’ve discovered a musical formula to benefit you before, during and after your work out. wanted to create the most perfect workout playlist to ensure you stick to your 2013 fitness resolutions; tireless research into the relationship between music, the brain and the body enabled me to compile the optimum playlist – The Ergogenic Fitness Playlist can now be found up on so use the promo code HOLIDAY2012 to sign up for free, for 7 days.

It’s a common assumption that fast-paced dance music makes for the best workout music, however other factors can prove crucial in readying the brain for exercise, and maintaining focus during a workout session.  Classical music, for example, can help you to take advantage of the twin benefits of:

  • the psychologically-motivating impact of upbeat music that results in increased strength, speed and endurance, and
  • the physiologically-relaxing influence resulting in reduced heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol that the classical genre seems to induce.

I’d recommend Beethoven’s Symphony No 4, 4th Movement but, heck, you can find other invigorating classical pieces on

Even if classical is not your cup of tea, you’ll be happy to hear that to reduce the perceived exertion associated with any moderately-intensive workout it seems that upbeat music from any genre will do just fine!

My survey of all the latest research also led me to discover that listening to upbeat music – around 120-130 bpm – gets your brain into a highly aroused state even before you’ve laced up your trainers (thus initiating a more focused and successful work out).
The most likely reason for this is that music at this tempo or above stimulates the Reticular Activating System, the part of the brain that increases alertness and prepares the body and brain for action. Technologic by Daft Punk (128 bpm) would obviously be a great choice here.

Memory is a beautiful thing and studies have shown that subjects who were played songs that were of personal significance to them, benefited more when exercising, than those who were played songs they didn’t know or particularly enjoy. The premotor cortex, an area of the brain that stores all the plans for complex sequences of movements, is stimulated most by the music that is deemed beautiful to the person’s own ear. So, when compiling your own Ergogenic playlist, it’s important to try and choose songs that mean something to you personally – ones that remind you of something motivational or inspiring. Maybe a song from a favourite film or a track that reminds you of a great holiday with friends.

Another interesting tip when it comes to building your work out play list – it’s important to match your tunes to your desired heart rate. Musical beats robustly stimulate an area of the brain called the basal ganglia.  Not only is this area fundamentally involved in initiating movements, but recent research has demonstrated that it also increases cross-talk between brain areas responsible for creating the music you hear from the sounds that reach your ear and instigate the sequence of muscle contractions that result in your movement. This may well be why we have a natural tendency to match the energy of our movements to the beat. For beginners just getting into fitness, music of a moderate intensity, around 125-140 bpm, would be most effective. Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People is in this range. However more experienced trainers or athletes will need to step this up; 162-168 bpm seems to be optimal for them. Hey Ya by Outkast would be an effective choice. Either way make sure you switch from the slower tempo tracks early on in your playlist, to gradually faster tempo tracks later on, as there is good evidence out there in the literature that this will help you get more out of your workouts.

My last interesting fact for you music (and hopefully soon, fitness) lovers – pumping music like the kind played in aerobics classes or circuit training has been shown to be especially effective for ladies. In tests, women were actually able to perform more repetitions in a medley of different exercises relative to men when motivational music was playing.

I’d love to hear what you think. Post your thoughts on the rara Facebook page (

Thanks and good luck with your January resolutions, whatever they may be.

Jack Lewis (Ph.D.)


One thought on “How music can help keep those New Years fitness resolutions

  1. Dear Dr. Jack,
    Would love to be on your hot-list for news,etc. I am studying MSc Music Psych at Roehampton in London just now. If you are doing any lectures, etc. please let me know.
    Stay kool, but not too kool for skool,

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