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You listen to a song on the radio and tap your foot to the beat. If you load up your iPod the right way, you can keep your feet moving for an entire workout. In other words, your playlist can do more than fight boredom — it can help you perform better.
"Music is a legal drug," says Dr. Costas Karageorghis, a sports psychologist at Brunel University in England who has spent 20 years studying the music-exercise link. "It reduces the perception of effort by blocking fatigue messages to the brain, and it can elevate positive mood."
The key element is a song's tempo, which should be 120 to 140 beats per minute (bpm). That's the norm in commercial dance music and many rock songs, he says.
Music best supports low- to moderate-intensity workouts, he says. That means your heartbeat is at 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. Though it varies by individual, that's 120 to 160 beats per minute.
Your heartbeat will speed up or slow down based on the music, says Dr. David Kateb, a pulmonologist at West Boca Medical Center.
"It's subconscious," he says. "Think about when you go into a bar and there's dance music playing. Your heart rate immediately goes up."
Build your playlist
So, assuming you're doing a cardio workout, here's how to build your playlist. We gleaned the bpm numbers from JogTunes.com and other sources.
1. Start with a warmup (about 95 bpm)
Your heart's not ready to really pump yet. You'll want something that's slow but that plants the seed for a good workout.
Try: This Love, Maroon 5 (94 bpm); River of Dreams, Billy Joel (91)
2. Get moving (100-120 bpm)
Add music that's a little more up-tempo, but you better not be gasping for air. At this point, you should be able to continue a conversation.
Try: American Boy, Estelle and featuring Kanye West (119); Livin' on a Prayer, Bon Jovi (120); Fighter, Christina Aguilera (120); Believe, Cher (133); Hot Stuff, Donna Summer (120); Dancing Queen, Abba (100)
3. Now crank it up (130-plus bpm)
You've opened up the engine and are working up a sweat. Conversation will be labored, and you'll want to keep it brief.
Try: Beat It, Michael Jackson (140); Love Is a Contact Sport, Whitney Houston (175); Irreplaceable, Beyoncé (176); Cookie Jar, Jack Johnson (152)
4. Time to cool down (bpm varies) Reinforce the feeling. Exult a little bit. By now the muscles are stretched and worked out. A sudden stop will leave you sore the next day.
Try: We Are the Champions, Queen (64); Jive Talkin', Bee Gees (106); Storm, Lenny Kravitz and featuring Jay-Z (90)
5. Turn off the iPod
Forget the music. Just feel the glow. A playlist can make you feel good for hours after the fact. So that you'll want to do it all again tomorrow.
When you pump iron, do you pump up the volume? Share your playlist; it might be a good fit in Fit. Send five to 10 songs, along with artist names, a brief explanation of why your list rocks, and your full name and city of residence to mderose@SunSentinel.com