Working out doesn't have to be mentally challenging.

By Zee Krstic/MARTHASTEWART.COM
Updated: Jun 25, 2019 @ 5:39 pm
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This article originally appeared on Martha Stewart Living. For more stories like it, visit marthastewart.com.

One of the most effective forms of exercise is HIIT, otherwise known as high-intensity interval training; it involves repeated sprints of intense exercise activity that is split up by brief breaks. Previous scientific evidence suggests that HIIT routines can improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes, but many often complain about the program's rigor. That's why a researcher at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, searched for ways to make this form of exercise more enjoyable—the study, published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise, found that a certain type of music could be the key to making a workout feel a little bit easier.

The study found that choosing the right soundtrack could make exercise sessions more enjoyable and less mentally challenging for those completing them. In conjunction with music scholars from Brunel University in London, lead author Matthew Stork, a research fellow in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences at UBC, gathered a panel of British adults to rate 16 different fast-tempo songs. The adults rated each song, and Stork whittled down his playlist to three songs with the highest motivational ratings.

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"Music is typically used as a dissociative strategy," Stork said in a press release. "This means that it can draw your attention away from the body's physiological responses to exercise such as increased heart rate and sore muscles… But, with high-intensity exercise, it seems that music is most effective when it has a fast tempo and is highly motivational," Stork said.

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Twenty four different test subjects were put through a one-minute HIIT workout that consisted of three 20-second sprints; a short break punctuated each sprint for a total of 10 minutes of working out. Each subject in the test went through the workout with the playlist, without music, and then while listening to a podcast. Researchers found that the music not only led to better enjoyment of the workout per feedback from participants, but also helped elevate their heart rate while exercising. "Humans have an innate tendency to alter the frequency of their biological rhythms toward that of musical rhythms," Stork said. "In this case, fast-tempo music may have increased people’s heart rate during the exercise."

The study notes that the findings suggest that those who live a sedentary lifestyle could reap the most rewards from completing HIIT workouts with a great playlist; music could help you work harder and enjoy the experience more. While Stork's experiment was specifically tied to HIIT workouts, the research suggests that taking the time to make a playlist with a speedy tempo could help you make your own workout routine that much more enjoyable.

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