Fitness Articles

Cardio Tunes!

Get Your Body Movin'

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“My uptown girl!  You know I’m in love with an uptown girl!”  As these lyrics pump through your headphones, it’s easy to forget that while Billy Joel sings to you, you’re actually running on the treadmill.  This is the power of music during a workout.  While Billy’s girl is looking for a “downtown man,” you’re busy burning calories as the minutes just fly by…
Music can be an important addition to your workout routine, something that can make a good workout great.  Often, if you are concentrating on music, you can workout at a higher intensity than normal.  Tunes can distract you from mild pain and muscle fatigue, allowing you to push your body harder.  Just like it is important to customize your workout routine, it is also beneficial to tailor your musical choices to fit your tastes.  If you are lucky enough to enjoy the music played in your gym, then it isn’t any extra effort to enjoy this source of motivation.  If, however, your gym’s choices leave much to be desired, simply create your own mix and tote your headset to your workout. 
If you don’t have a workout buddy, use your “mix tape” to psych yourself up and get the energy flowing.  You might try listening to fast-paced music on the way to the gym just to get into a better mindset.  Once you are there, that beat can help you ease into a comfortable rhythm while running, walking, or biking.  For some extra variety, switch-up the pace (or even machine!) every time the song changes.  Do this for 30 minutes, and you’ll have completed a great cardio workout.
There is a lot of technology that makes listening to custom music choices much easier.  From portable radios to CD players, you can bring an entire music library with you to the gym.  Perhaps the ultimate, however, is a personal MP3 player, which can often hold thousands of songs that you pick and legally download.  All you need to do is put on the earphones and hit play. 
There are countless CDs available that are specifically mixed for working out.  Some are specific for different workouts, from syncopated songs for kickboxing to disco-themed melodies for step aerobics.  Try one that fits both your musical and workout tastes.  80’s music might motivate you, while hip-hop is better for your workout buddy.  Expect to pay anywhere from $15-25 for any given CD, available online or even at your local music store.
Perhaps the best option is creating your own custom CD or MP3 playlist.  Start with a slower song, work up to several more up-tempo songs, and then include one or two tunes to cool down at the end.  Coordinate your workout intensity with each song, picking up pace as the beat speeds up.  Depending on the length of each song, expect to listen to around 10 different songs during a 30-minute cardio workout. 
The Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale will help you move through the following playlist, created by SparkPeople for approximately a 30-minute cardio workout.  As the RPE moves with each song, you should adjust the intensity of your workout accordingly.  Feel free to create your own mixes to make your workout tunes truly your own.  Enjoy!

Click here to learn more about exercise intensity, including how to use the RPE scale.

 Title  Artist Duration  RPE
 The Sign  Ace of Base  3:12  4
 Caught Up  Usher  3:44  6
 Uptown Girl  Billy Joel  3:16  7
 Ain't Too Proud to Beg  The Temptations  2:33  8
 Lose My Breath  Destiny's Child  4:02  8
 Take Me Out  Franz Ferdinand  3:57  7
 Rock Your Body  Justin Timberlake  4:27  6
 Respect  Aretha Franklin  2:25  6
 When It's Over Sugar Ray   3:40  4
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About The Author

Liz Noelcke Liz Noelcke
Liz is a journalist who often writes about health and fitness topics.

Member Comments

  • Having music makes a boring workout on the recumbent bike a little more interesting. - 5/18/2016 10:54:23 AM
  • I prefer having music to workout to. - 8/6/2014 6:05:24 AM
  • A CD player??! A mixtape?!? A music store??? How old is this article???
    I felt like I was transported back to high school in the 80's!
    While I agree with the concept (I have a couple of different workout playlists IN MY PHONE) this article needs a serious update!
    I think I'll start a thread just to track favorite workout songs; I'm sure I won't be the first but I haven't seen one in a while. - 8/3/2014 10:55:53 AM
  • If I don't have music, I can hardly get myself to move. It really motivates me. - 10/7/2013 8:13:55 AM
  • I find that itunes has a pretty large selection of free mix podcasts if you like electronic music. I prefer to listen to Paul Oakenfold's weekly podcast, it's usually the right bpm for a brisk walk. - 10/28/2012 10:19:19 PM
  • Gangnam Style definitely should be on this list. - 9/23/2012 5:27:50 PM
    I felt very motivated today. - 8/22/2012 9:44:14 PM
  • Some of my favorite workout songs are "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen, "Dancing Queen" by ABBA, "Who Do You Think You Are?" by Spice Girls and "Move Along" by All-American Rejects. - 8/22/2012 5:17:24 PM
  • I always listened to "I Heart Radio" . But today I looked in the app store and found Fit Radio and I like it! There is every kind of music there, except country! I enjoyed my workout and the time went by faster! It's FREE! They will give you a 15 minute trial before you register just to see if you will like it, but it's still FREE! I put it on my iPhone and will probably install it on my iPad! - 8/22/2012 1:10:54 PM
  • I downloaded a free album of electronic dance music from Amazon several months ago, and it is about the most perfect blend of high-energy music for me when I walk or workout on the elliptical. Really gets me going! - 8/22/2012 11:19:24 AM
  • Shape magazine has had free workout music downloads each month this summer. There's about 5 songs ranging from current top 40 to some older stuff and best of all it's free. Not sure if they do this all year long or not. I discovered it in June and have really enjoyed the mixes. :) - 8/22/2012 7:56:07 AM
    Sometimes music is the only thing that makes my workout bearable! I couldn't imagine exercising without it! - 8/22/2012 7:24:40 AM
  • I have a playlist on my phone that I use for exercise. It mostly dance tunes and other fast-paced songs. The built-in media player on my Windows Phone did not have a way to shuffle playlists, so I wrote an app to do that and it works great. Anyone with a Windows Phone can get it free here:
    CL0 - 9/3/2011 9:52:50 AM
    I so agree. I could not work out if it was not to music! - 6/6/2011 1:03:03 PM
  • right now i'm working on my stamina, so i've creatred a playlist of 2min & 3 min songs so i know when to walk & when to run.
    I've found some songs (like "here we go again' by OK GO and 'Womanizer' by Brittney Spears are at the *exact* pace i like to run to....even tho it's not really my type of music. I let my guilty pleasures come out on that mix.
    Shhhh don't tell :) - 6/6/2011 6:30:21 AM

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