What to Listen to When Working Out – Audio Books vs. Music [Updated 2019]

The scientific world has long been looking at what happens to our brains when we listen to music, but did you know that there is now a new kid on the block? It turns out that it’s not just listening to music that can help you during exercise. Surprisingly, listening to an audiobook is now being recommended as a means of improving people’s workouts. 

We already know that when you’re setting yourself up for a workout, sticking your headphones in can be a great way to get motivated. But with audiobooks now flying around left, right and centre, what’s really the best thing to listen to when working out? Should you opt for some music with a deep, strong beat to get the blood pumping? Or is an immersive audiobook the best way to go? 

Option 1: Motivational Music

There are so many benefits to listening to music when working out. Dr Costas Karageorghis has focused his entire career on researching the impact of listening to music when we exercise. ‘It’s scientifically proven to boost performance, motivation, and help you push through the pain.’  Karageorghis is a reader in sport psychology at Brunel University London and claims that ‘Music can have a profound effect on our emotional state and every facet of music can contribute towards this, including the lyrics, tempo and rhythm.’

The most important parts of your workout are the warm-up and cool down, which are vital for ensuring that your body is primed and ready to work out, and has the chance to recover afterwards. For these moments, a slower beat works really well to help slowly raise and lower your body’s heart rate. Dr Karageorghis’ personally recommends ‘music with a simple harmonic and melodic structure, and a tempo that reduces from about 90 beats per minute to 60bpm, such as Enya’s “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)” or Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”’.  

Then for the main part of your workout, music that really gets the blood pumping and encourages us to move to the beat is best. Listening to music allows our minds to take us anywhere we want to go. We can switch off from the outside world and just let the music take over.

Depending on the kind of workout you’re doing, you can adapt your music to suit. @GymInsights say that for endurance training you will ‘benefit the most from music with 135 or more beats per minute’.

There’s no doubt that fast-paced songs encourage you to work harder and faster, so for any workout sessions that need you to get the blood pumping this is definitely the way to go. 

Option 2: Enthralling Audiobooks

Everyone knows that audiobooks are becoming increasingly popular. If you’re looking to mix up your normal workout choices then listening to an audiobook might well be a great alternative to music. You can allow yourself to get lost in a story and continue working out without even realising that you’re raising a sweat! 

Lack of motivation is one of the key reasons why many of us stop working out and our New Year’s Resolutions get broken. Initially, we’re full of promise and excitement about our workouts, but then the novelty quickly wears off. Listening to an audiobook makes the time fly by, so it’s a great option for those of us who struggle to keep up the momentum. The science on listening to audiobooks rather than music to aid your workout is in its infancy, but there’s no denying that listening to a great story can be a significant distraction to anything going on around you, which can sometimes be extremely helpful. So, the next time you find yourself getting lost in an audiobook, remember to pick up the story the next time you’re due to workout. Listening to an audiobook is a ‘great way to switch things up and make your trail run or weekend hike way more exciting. The time will fly by, and if you choose the right audiobook, your brain will get a workout, too’. 

The other advantage to listening to audiobooks is that they are great for teaching us new things. Although we know we’re benefiting our body with a workout, it can somehow feel as though that time is wasted. Listening to an audiobook means you’re exercising your mind as well as your body. You could use that time to learn something new, perhaps a new language for instance?

What do you listen to when you’re working out? Let us know if It Really Works for you.

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