Science Brings You the Ultimate Workout Playlist

Something most gym-goers know instinctively has now been verified by research—music makes exercise easier. The right tunes can not only distract you from pain but also elevate mood and increase endurance.

Spotify, the well-known music-streaming service, recently came up with an ultimate playlist that includes heart-pumping tracks to keep you sweating. And the songs on this playlist aren’t just tracks with top ratings—they are backed up by science:

Dr. Costas Karageorghis, deputy head of the School of Sport and Education at Brunel University in London, teamed up with Spotify to create the list.

He formulated the list with popular songs that increase the intensity and effectiveness of workouts. The playlist includes warm-up and stretching tracks as well as cardio songs that build in force. Then it goes into songs for strength training and ends with cool-down tracks.

Pumping up the tempo by one or two beats per minute on songs during the peak of the workout session subtly pushes people beyond their comfort zones, Karageorghis added.

No pain no gain, right?

See What Doesn't Work: The Worst Fitness Trends of All Time »

So Which Songs Will Make You Sweat?

Songs on the ultimate playlist include:

  1. Katy Perry - "Roar"
  2. Jason Derulo feat. 2 Chainz - "Talk Dirty"
  3. Rizzle Kicks - "Skip to the Good Bit"
  4. Daft Punk feat. Pharrel Williams - "Get Lucky"
  5. Little Mix - "Move"
  6. Duke Dumont feat. A*M*E - "Need U 100%"
  7. Avicii - "You Make Me"
  8. Viralites - "Feel My Rhythm"
  9. Pitbull feat. Ke$ha - "Timber"
  10. Lady Gaga - "Applause"

A combination of factors make these songs a hit:

“Music helps to induce alpha brain wave activity, which is responsible for our dreams and rest states,” Karageorghis told BBC News. “This leads to a state known as 'flow,' which is an ultimate motivational state in which sportspeople are completely immersed in what they are doing and feel as if they are functioning on autopilot.”

“Music lowers your perception of effort," he added. "It can trick your mind into feeling less tired during a workout and also encourage positive thoughts."

A Little Behind? Try These 4 Easy New Year's Resolutions »

Creating a Playlist That Rocks

If these songs aren't to your liking and you want to create a playlist of your own, here are a few tips for putting together something blast-worthy.

Arlene Rudo, a fitness instructor from New Jersey, says the first song sets the tone for the workout—so make it one that uplifts you. Then you should include a few tracks that have the same or similar beats a minute for the cardio portion of your workout. If you’re doing more weight-lifting, anything with a repetitive beat may keep you pumped.

Rudo said that the right song can take your mind off a challenging workout, so the tracks really matter—especially for people who don't enjoy physical activity.

And if you’re into group fitness classes, choose one with not only a good instructor but also a good music selection.

“There are different things that I try to accomplish when creating a playlist for group fitness class,” said Rudo, who teaches everything from spinning to Zumba. “The driving force other than the instructor is the music. The participants need to be able to feel like the music has some motivation in it and they can connect to the music in some way.”

See What Fitness Trends Are Going to Be Hot in 2014 »

Workout Winners: Most Popular Songs

In addition to the ultimate playlist, Spotify recently shared its list of the most popular workout songs. “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis was the most common worldwide.

In the U.S., these 10 workout songs were the most popular:

  1. Eminem - "The Monster"
  2. Pitbull feat. Ke$ha - "Timber"
  3. Britney Spears - "Work B**ch"
  4. Avicii - "Wake Me Up"
  5. Various Artists - "Leaving You"
  6. Katy Perry - "Roar"
  7. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - "Can’t Hold Us"
  8. Eminem - "'Till I Collapse"
  9. Robin Thicke - "Blurred Lines"
  10. John Doe feat. Priscilla - "B.o.B."

Use These Four Tips to Sculpt Your Body Like a Pro Athlete »

His and Hers Playlists

In addition to research on what songs get us moving, Spotify also recently reported some workout tune differences based on the sexes.

They say men exercise most frequently during lunch breaks and later in the week, while women commonly squeeze in a sweat session before breakfast and at the beginning of the week.

Males and females also differ on which songs they enjoy most. “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor and “'Till I Collapse” were popular on men’s playlists; “We Found Love” by Rihanna and “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were atop women’s lists.

They also found that women more frequently use music to exercise to a beat, which is useful for repetitive fitness routines such as cardio or weight-lifting.

Read Why BMI Is Antiquated Science and Athletes Get Some Good Treatment »