Most people have a playlist that motivates them to work out. But does pumping up the jams really pump people up for a workout? Studies suggest listening to music during exercise may increase speed and length of workout, while also creating a more comfortable workout environment. Not to mention it drowns out the grunting meatheads.

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger – Why It Matters

Despite what Madonna says, music does more than make the people come together, especially in the gym. In a recent study, researchers measured the speed of cyclists under three conditions: music for the first half of the course, the final half, and none at all. They found that introducing music during the second half of the course caused participants to cycle1–1.25 km/hfaster than they did during the two other ridesEffects+of+differentiated+music+on+cycling+time+trial.+Lim+HB,+Atkinson+G,+Karageorghis+CI,+et+al.+Brunel+University+Unbridge,+UK.+International+Journal+of+Sports+Medicine+July+2009;+30(7):+555.. A similar study found that people who walked while listening to fast audio cues, like music with a quick tempo, increased their speed by 16%Sounding+better:+fast+audio+cues+increase+walk+speed+in+treadmill-mediated+virtual+rehabilitation+environments.+Powell+W,+Stevens+B,+Hand+S,+et+al.+University+of+Portsmouth+United+Kingdom.+Studies+in+Health+Technology+and+Informatics+2010;+153:+202-207. Selecting songs with a fast tempo is the key— listening to Celine Dion won’t kick up a cardio routine (unless it’s a REMIX!).

Pressing play on the iPod, however, does more than increase speed– it may provide a much needed distraction for the exercise reluctant. By taking attention off the physical challenge, people may be able to enjoy themselves more. This added diversion even works to extend the duration of a workoutEffects+of+distraction+on+treadmill+running+time+in+severely+obese+children+and+adolescents.+DeBourdeaudhuij+I,+Crombe+G,+Deforche+B,+et+al.+Ghent+University+Ghent,+Belgium.+International+Journal+of+Obesity+and+Related+Metabolic+Disorders+August+2002;+26(8):+1023+-1029..

Music also has a place during post-workout routines. Listening to slow-paced music after a workout has been shown to decrease recovery timeEffect+of+different+musical+tempo+on+post-exercise+recovery+in+young+adults.+Savitha+D,+Makkikarjuna+RN,+Rao+C.+Narayana+Medical+College.+Indian+Journal+of+Physiology+and+Pharmacology+2010;+54(1):+32-36.. So don’t push pause just because the exercise is over. Instead, take the time to stretch to some slow, sexy tunes.

Drop a Beat – The Answer / Debate

To iPod or not to iPod: that is the ultimate question. But while studies suggest playing music can help with speed, it could also cause some safety issues when exercising outside. By head-bopping to Beyonce instead of their surroundings, people are sometimes unable to hear cars or nearby runners, which could cause some seriously dangerous collisions. So if exercising outdoors near crowds or busy streets, maybe it’s worth considering leaving the headphones at home— and, either way, rock on!

Certainty Level

Richard Simmons says “YOU CAN DO IT” and he’s been exercising to music for over 30 years.