Workouts and BPM
January 11, 2018 12:48 PM   Subscribe

I find it very difficult (if not impossible) to go against music when I am doing cardio. How do I find music that makes working out easier?

I probably do not have the right terminology and I'm sure some of my questions are very Jessica Simpson but please bear with me.

1) Is beats-per-minute the thing that makes your body want to move to the rhythm?

2) Are there scientifically proven BPM's that are optimal for things like walking, climbing a steep incline on a treadmill, jogging, running, etc? I remember from my father having Parkinson's that rhythm therapy as simple as the therapist snapping her fingers at a certain speed helped him walk when he otherwise could not.

3) How can I find out, for certain, the BPM of a specific song in my music library? I've tried doing online searches by song name but there are conflicting answers - is it because there are different versions of the same song, or is BPM not constant throughout one song, or is it just bad data?

4) How do I find songs that are exactly the BPM I want? I've tried Amazon music search, BPM radio and a few others, but they all seem to produce results within a range rather than the exact BPM. As mentioned above, I find it really hard to run against the music even when it's a little off.

5) I am basically looking to zone out for a relaxing 30 minutes on the treadmill. Are there 30-minute "songs" that are not real music but rather just some beat on repeat? Or perhaps apps that do exactly this? I did try a simple metronome app but half an hour of straight up clicking noise is not relaxing.

Thank you.
posted by rada to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This website has a variety of different BPM mixes to do various things with running. Basically you can put a foot down for each beat you hear in the song and it will put you at a specific pace. They have different workouts from fixed BPM mixes to variable if you're trying to do interval training. Most non-electronic music does not have a fixed bpm which is why a lot of dance/club music is used in workout and tempo mixes.

The phrases you are looking to google to find this kind of workout music is fixed (or variable if you want interals) BPM workout music or playlist.
posted by edbles at 1:00 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]

Spotify has a similar service.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:36 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]

You might also look into military running cadences, which are available on Spotify, iTunes, etc.
posted by unknowncommand at 3:11 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

Yes, it's BPM for the most part.

There are literally hundreds of collections of generic electronic music made for working out, at different intensities. They make them for classes and such, and have for many years. It beats trying to put together a bunch of tracks, or coming across with tracks on a streaming playlist that might be distracting.
I personally find that the generic aspect is not a bad thing, that's why people like them. It may not be something you'd listen in the car, but it works for it's purpose. Some of the collections are just awful, which is distracting, and some are surprisingly not (though the cover art may be).

Here's just a random search with just "100 workout" in the title;

There are many more with different titles.

Many, like this random one, list the BPM and are aimed at a specific activity, and come with the whole thing as one long mix in addition to individual tracks.
posted by bongo_x at 4:08 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

Run Hundred has several ways to search music, and also has short samples so you can make sure it's the song you're thinking of. The site also has several workout mixes that I keep meaning to try.
posted by mogget at 4:41 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

If you want to use your own music and have an iPhone you could try the app “Tempo Magic”. It can speed up or slow down songs and has a BPM lock feature that will adjust all songs in a playlist to a tempo that you set. I haven’t used it myself though, just came across it when I was looking for something else.
posted by doctord at 5:56 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]

I once had a brief free trial of the Spring app, which syncs music to bpm. It worked alright. I did like that you could program in intervals, and that you could determine bpm either by manually setting them, or determine by pacing yourself.
posted by alygator at 6:16 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

BPM means "beats per minute". It is *not* what makes you want to move. That's something much harder to quantify, like "danceability". It is also not true that only electronic music has a bpm. Basically every song will have one; you will feel it more strongly with dance/electronica however. has a repository of songs and playlists organized by bpm. Spotify knows the beat rate of all its songs, but it won't share that info with you except if you use one of their automatic cadence-matching playlists. There exists software that will scan an mp3 library and attempt to tag your songs with their bpm; most accounts are that it's not super accurate. I've been trying to solve this problem myself lately, since I like to run with my footfalls corresponding exactly to the beat. It turns out this is a relatively difficult problem to solve!
posted by dbx at 6:35 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

On review, there isn't an "optimal" bpm that will work for everybody, but which I mentioned above lets you search by pace. For instance, it suggests that a 9 minute mile goes with about 158 beats per minute, and that seems pretty accurate to me.
posted by dbx at 6:37 PM on January 11

For (3): I recently tried Beatunes with my iTunes library. It has a free 2 week trial and one of its functions is to analyze bpm for songs in your library. I can't tell for sure how accurate it is but it seems mostly reasonable (note that doesn't necessarily mean "accurate") in that the songs with higher bpm at least seem faster to me subjectively. They do note somewhere in an FAQ that there is a known issue with some songs being identified as at half or twice the "real" bpm; when in spot checking my library that seemed likely to have occurred, I just doubled/halved the value. I am not sure how it deals with songs that have variable tempo e.g. if it averages or picks the the tempo that is the majority of the time or something else.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 6:44 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

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