workout playlist

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What to Play for Your Most Dreaded Workout
Anyone who's exercised within earshot of a Lady Gaga song knows that listening to familiar music boosts feelings of happiness and energy while diminishing tension, depression and anger. For the record, this has also been confirmed in extensive research by Costas Karageorghis, PhD, a professor at Brunel University in London and a co-author of Inside Sport Psychology. Specifically, Karageorghis has found that it can improve how you feel by up to 15 percent during, say, a treadmill run. During super-challenging workouts, listening to your favorite songs can alter the way the brain interprets symptoms of fatigue, found Karageorghis, so you're more likely to stick it out.

What to play: "Let It Go," the Dave Audé version featuring Idina Menzel, the grownup remix of the Disney hit; anything by Eminem, Skrillex or Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, the most popular workout-song artists among Spotify listeners.
best exercise songs

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The Tunes That Will Help You Build Stronger Muscles
Welcome to the gym in your basement! In this corner: The dumbbells. And in this corner: The reigning champion! That's you! If you keep pumping up the bass. In a series of experiments, researchers at Northwestern University found that compared with other types of music (including energetic dance tracks), songs with a strong bass line consistently invoked feelings of power as well as physical and mental strength. Those feelings of toughness and lemme-at-'em-ness persisted even after the music had stopped.

What to play: "We Will Rock You" by Queen; "Get Ready for This" by 2 Unlimited; "In Da Club" by 50 Cent.
songs that help you focus

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What to Listen to When You Need to Focus
If your goal is to tune in to your body—when practicing a challenging yoga pose or while meditating—turn on something that calms a pounding heart as well as a racing brain. Studies have shown that slow-tempo music, with between 60 and 70 beats per minute (just below resting heart rate), can bring down blood pressure and heart rate. You might want to stick with instrumental pieces, as Karageorghis has found that lyrics can be challenging to process mentally, and the messages expressed by the lyrics can be motivating or physically arousing. (Great for when you're trying to get your mind off your aching feet; not so great when you're trying to get in touch with your inner self.)

What to play: "Albatross" by Fleetwood Mac (66 bpm); "Evenstar" by London Philharmonic Orchestra (50 bpm); "Terrapin" by Bonobo (76 bpm).
best running songs

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Songs That Will Make You Pick Up Your Pace
Music can propel you to go faster, but only if you've got gas left in your tank, explains Carl Foster, PhD, a professor in the department of exercise and sports science at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. (When he's conducted time trials with competitive cyclists who were already pushing themselves to the max, music didn't make much of a difference in their times.) Research by Karageorghis provides further insight: Experienced athletes have had a lot of practice tuning in and responding to what their body is telling them, and music—especially a song that's too fast, too slow or too crammed with busy beats—can throw them off their preferred rhythm. On the other hand, most casual exercisers welcome the distraction from their own huffing and puffing; the key is finding a song with a predictable beat and a tempo that matches a pace you can sustain. If you're hitting the treadmill, the road, the elliptical machine or the stationary bike, that's probably somewhere between 120 and 160 beats per minute. (You can use this online tool to calculate the beats per minute in your favorite songs.)

What to play: "Push It" by Salt-N-Pepa (124 bpm); "Friday I'm in Love" by the Cure (135 bpm); "Vacation" by the Go-Go's (156 bpm); "Happy" by Pharrell Williams (160 bpm).