Written by Lauren Pufpaf, Feed Media Group President & Co-founder
A large spike in the usage of fitness apps and gym attendance is always expected in the first month of the year, accompanied by a similarly large dip in activity during the second and third months. We all know committing to consistent physical exercise can still be extremely challenging, even when you have the latest fit tech to assist you, but according to Professor Costas Karageorghis (PhD, CPsychol, CSci, FBASES, AFBPsS), the world-renowned sports and exercise psychology researcher at Brunel University London, there is one reliable “cheat code” to keep fitness users motivated: music.
In the recent white paper, The ABC of Music in Exercise: Affect, Behavior, and Cognition, published in partnership with Feed.fm, Professor Karageorghis compiles the emotional, behavioral and cognitive science data backing up this claim. Having followed Prof. Karageorghis for years, we have come to hold his work in the highest regard and have helped the brands we work with leverage his insights. For anyone struggling to keep themselves or their customers on track this year and the years to come, here are three helpful tips from his findings:
1: Use tempo to your advantage
As a stimulus that promotes pleasure and distracts from discomfort, music has been found to reduce feelings of fatigue often associated with challenging workouts. These effects are so powerful that Professor Karageorghis makes the bold claim that music could even be thought of as a “legal, performance-enhancing drug.” Yet to achieve these benefits, one must realize that not all music is created equal when it comes to fitness.
Professor Karageorghis has found that music can be applied to exercise in three primary ways: pre-task, in-task, and post-task. “The in-task application can be further broken down into synchronous and asynchronous uses, while the post-task application can be split into respite and recuperation uses,” he further explains. “The synchronous use entails the exerciser moving in strict time with music, while in the asynchronous mode, this does not happen. Respite music applications pertain to exercise modalities such as High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), wherein music is used to enhance exercise-related affect during recovery periods. Recuperative music is used at the very end of an exercise session to facilitate recovery and revitalization.”
He finds that the use of synchronous music can reduce the metabolic cost of exercise and has been found to have an “ergogenic” or work-enhancing effect. Among people who are recreationally active, the ergogenic effect can be as great as 15%. Other than for warmup and warm-down phases, or recovery and recuperation, the tempo “sweet spot” in the asynchronous application is ~120–140 bpm, according to Professor Karageorghis.
“It is also advantageous for the rhythm of the music to approximate the motor patterns that typify a given type of exercise activity,” he adds. “For example, a waltz-type rhythm characterized by three beats to the bar with the first beat accented (i.e. a 3/4 time signature), is ideal for the front crawl in swimming.”
2: Pick more positive lyrics
Positivity is always a good thing, right? When it comes to music in fitness applications, it can certainly make a major difference. According to Professor Karageorghis’s research, prioritizing music with lyrics that provide “affirmation, empowerment, and motivation” can actually enhance mental preparation before exercise.
Pre-task music, as earlier mentioned, serves a “psych-up’ or ‘psych-down” function, which means that it has the ability to alter a fitness user's affective or emotional state and can mentally prepare exercisers, or induce an optimal level of activation for the workout. Professor Karageorghis says that pre-task music can also elicit exercise-related thought processes that feed into mental preparation, and among such cognitions might be exercise-related imagery or positive self-talk.
Phrases such as “I feel good”, “let’s get physical”, or “moving on up”, are all prime examples of the kind of lyrics that put exercisers in the right frame of mind to succeed. Put another way, you’ll be better off avoiding songs with somber or negative lyrics for exercise applications and opt for something a little more uplifting. That said, it’s also important to remember that one song that may be positive to one group of fitness users may be positively insufferable to another group, which brings us to our third point below.
3: Accommodate personal tastes
Even with the right tempo and right lyrics, the true power of music can only be realized if end users actually enjoy the songs being played. In other words, it’s best to know what your audience likes to hear and know it well.
“A primary consideration is that music selected to accompany exercise should be congruent with exercisers’ personal preferences—incorporating age-related factors and socio-cultural background—and meet the demands of the intended exercise task,” Professor Karageorghis writes. “Algorithm-based streaming that draws upon the preferred tracks of an individual, as well as the ‘near neighbor’ tracks in stylistic terms, provides a good point of origin in this regard.”
Since personal taste matters so much when it comes to the effectiveness of music, it's very important for fitness businesses and end users to fine tune options. Luckily, finding out what your customers enjoy is usually an easily achievable task for any business, as it could make a world of difference when it comes to user retention, or the lack thereof.
For a deeper dive on how music can make or break exercise routines, we invite you to visit the white paper landing page: https://info.feed.fm/the-abc-of-music-in-exercise.
About Lauren Pufpaf:
Lauren Pufpaf is President, COO and Co-founder of Feed.fm, the leading B2B music platform for apps and connected devices. With experience across a wide range of industries, the connecting thread is the desire to build businesses and drive growth. With Feed.fm she’s merged a personal passion for music with 15+ years of proven success creating customer relationships through digital and direct marketing. Lauren believes in the power of music to create connections and drive memorable experiences. Whether it’s core to each user interaction (like fitness), or leveraged as content marketing (like retail), music is proven to shift LTV and perception metrics for brands. She’s also a house music fanatic with a massive vinyl collection and over 20 years of DJ experience.
Connect with Lauren and Feed Media Group to stay up to speed with their latest information:
About Feed Media Group:
Feed Media Group is for businesses that need licensed popular music to create the most engaging customer experiences in their digital apps and physical spaces. Unlike navigating complex, time consuming negotiations with music labels and publishers, Feed Media Group’s proprietary streaming platform and SDKs deliver pre-cleared music—compiled by the industry’s best curators— complete with user analytics, payments to rightsholders, and legal indemnification for our customers.
Feed.fm powers music for the world’s leading brands including The Beachbody Company, American Eagle Outfitters, Mayo Clinic, Mirror, Nautilus and Tonal; and up-and-coming startups use Adaptr to create unique music-based experiences.