Exercising might not be your favorite activity. It’s difficult work, strenuous, and you often give up before you notice any positive results. However, exercising doesn’t always have to be challenging. Sometimes, all you need is the right music to pump up your spirits. According to a new study, listening to upbeat, jaunty music (like that of Calvin Harris) encourages us to push harder during a workout session. However, it must be the right type of music. It can’t be classical, instrumental music, nor can it be a new episode of your favorite podcast. These noise distractions simply don’t have the same effect.

All about HIIT workouts

You have probably participated in a high-intensity interval training [HIIT] exercise, but you just didn’t know it. The training involves plenty of sweating, panting, burpees, and more. HIIT is a cardio workout arranged as short bursts of intense activity. You need to push yourself to the max during each set, anywhere from 20 to 90 seconds long.

HIIT workouts have become increasingly more popular in recent years, promoted by fitness trainers, coaches, and scientists. The intense workout improves one’s health to the same extent as sustained jogging in a fraction of the time. However, because the workouts are more intense than others, people may be less susceptible to try the exercise program. They could find it physically unpleasant and give up after their first attempt at the new workout. That’s why HIIT researchers have advised the use of music in these hyperactive workouts to make these programs more enjoyable.

Work out with music

The new study, published by Psychology of Sport & Exercise from researchers at the University of British Columbia-Okanagan, polled 24 adult men and women who rarely exercised. The test subjects were invited into the university’s exercise lab, fitted with a heart rate monitor, and introduced by fitness instructors to a one-minute HIIT workout. The exercise consisted of three 20-second intense sets on stationary bicycles with two minutes of recovery between each interval. While working out, the subjects listened to upbeat music from the lab’s loudspeakers. The volunteers could choose to listen to pop music, rock, or hip-hop.

The subjects were advised that they would be tested on their emotional and psychological response to the HIIT workout, along with the effects of listening to music. They worked out to songs like Calvin Harris’s “Let’s Go” and Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us.” Following the first session, the volunteers had the choice to repeat their workouts, which many of them agreed to give the new workout another chance. This time, they exercised once without any music and then another time by listening to a podcast. After each interval, the volunteers agreed they were happy to be finished with the intense workout, but they best enjoyed the exercise when they were also listening to music.

Syncing to the rhythms

According to the research, the test subjects’ heart rates were significantly higher while they were listening to the upbeat songs. They performed better and worked harder compared to when they weren’t listening to music. The majority of the volunteers weren’t aware they were working hard while listening to music. The upbeat, fun music provided the necessary distraction for them to complete each repetition in the HIIT workout.

“There’s this idea called entrainment,” said study leader Matthew Stork. This theory suggests that our bodies tend to sync with rhythms, especially rhythms of music, from the world around us. Entraining to the rhythm of the music, the study volunteers worked harder than other times of the workout session.

The study suggests that anyone who is on a busy schedule can get a quick workout into their routine by listening to music. Stork comments, “The point is that high-intensity intervals can be a good option for people who do not think they have a lot of time for exercise.”

If you want to exercise faster and start an intense program, work out while listening to music. You’ll push your body harder than ever before, but you’ll have fun with the workout because of the loud, upbeat rhythms surrounding you. Your body will take care of the rest.