Follow the beat and
make music your ally!

With its ability to motivate, distract and help participants keep time, music should be considered your closest ally when it comes to creating killer classes, says Maria Teresa Stone.

As a fitness enthusiast and group fitness instructor I have always used music to motivate myself and others, but how much can music really affect a workout?

Music can be both a source of motivation and, perhaps conversely, distraction while we workout. When used in conjunction with exercise that has a pace or rhythm – such as rowing, running or cycling – music can be used to control that rhythm. A fast tempo can also help to increase the heart rate, as a study carried out by researchers in the UK found.

In the 2010 study by a team at the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University, researchers observed the activity levels of 12 study subjects as they rode indoor cycles while listening to six tracks of varying tempos on three different occasions.

In one session the six tunes were played at their usual tempos, and in other sessions the tempo was either decreased or increased by 10 per cent.

The researchers found that when the tempo was reduced, the rate of pedalling and heart rate also fell. When the tempo was sped up, the study participants produced more power with each pedal stroke, increasing their pedalling rates and their heart rates.

As a group exercise instructor, you will be only too aware that music is the foundation of many classes. It is very important, therefore, to choose the right music for the class format. The kickboxing class that uses Greatest Love Ballads of the ‘80s will not last long on any timetable…

Knowing the power that it has to make or break a group exercise workout, you should consider music your closest ally in the creation of a killer class. Music can make your job easier and more enjoyable by truly engaging participants and making them want to move – not have to move. By carefully planning your playlist you can ‘disguise’ the effort being exerted with the joy of moving to the music.

The music effectively sends signals to the body, prompting participants to exert greater effort and push themselves harder than they would without music. The rhythm takes away the task of keeping time from the conscious mind, allowing it to put more effort into the movements.

So, what songs are motivating participants to push themselves at the moment? My personal experience has been that the following tracks have recently provoked very positive responses in classes:

  • Instructor Tip

    For song inspiration visit, the web's most popular workout music blog. Each month the site compiles a Top 10 list of current workout tracks based on thousands of votes.

    Play Hard, David Guetta, Ne-Yo & Akon – 130 BPM
  • The Other Side, Jason Derulo – 128 BPM
  • Live It Up, Jennifer Lopez & Pitbull – 128 BPM
  • Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke, T.I. & Pharrell – 121 BPM
  • Other Side of Love, Sean Paul – 120 BPM
  • Va Va Voom, Nicki Minaj – 128 BPM
  • Don't Stop the Party, Pitbull & TJR – 126 BPM
  • Scream & Shout, Will.I.Am & Britney Spears – 131 BPM
  • Live While We're Young (Dave Aude Remix), One Direction – 130 BPM
  • People Like Us, Kelly Clarkson – 128 BPM

Of course, music isn’t only used by those working out in the group exercise environment. Most gyms have music or music videos playing, and a great many gym members choose to work out listening to their own devices. While they may start exercising to music as a distraction, many will continue to use it as a motivational tool that spurs them to go longer and harder in their workouts.

There is no question that music and exercise are a great combination. Most people innately want to move to music, so for group exercise instructors it pays to harness the power of rhythm to help participants push themselves and become healthier and happier!

How do you use music to maximise the Group Ex experience you deliver? Share your experiences and advice below.

Maria Teresa Stone
Maria is a Zumba® Education Specialist, fitness presenter and Nuzest ambassador. Born in Mexico and now based in Australia, Maria taught her first group exercise class in 1996. She has managed fitness facilities in Mexico and the UK, and presented at fitness conventions worldwide. For more information visit