As indoor gyms have reopened and people are beginning to exercise in public again, there are a great deal of people experiencing anxiety about being in the gym again. People have Google searched ‘gym anxiety’ around 250 times a month, suggesting that, on top of the issues related to the pandemic, there are still many reasons people might be uncomfortable working out in the gym. 01

Workout playlists are one of Spotify’s most popular categories, with over 43 million currently being listened on the music streaming site. We at A-List Nutrition decided to examine these playlists, discovering the most popular workout songs of all time and what they show about how music can affect our mood and focus at the gym.

The ideal workout mood

According to our research, negative music is much more popular with gym-goers than any other kind. The overall average sentiment score for the top 50 most popular workout songs was 0.318, with over half of the songs recording a negative sentiment score and only five songs receiving positive scores. This could suggest that gym-goers of all kinds prefer angry music to get pumped up to.

Whether you’re nervous about going to the gym or a seasoned professional, music with negative, angry lyrics could be beneficial in a number of ways. Anger and frustration are common themes in the most negative songs on the list, which could be because these correlate with feeling insecure about public performance or because they encourage higher levels of exertion. Getting yourself riled up could be the perfect cure for gym shyness or the ideal way to push yourself to the limits next time you’re working out.

Top 10 most popular negative songs

  1. Kanye West – Black Skinhead
  2. Papa Roach – Last Resort
  3. Skrillex & Rick Ross – Purple Lamborghini
  4. Drake – One Dance
  5. Tones & I – Dance Monkey
  6. Kendrick Lamar – HUMBLE.
  7. Desiigner – Panda
  8. Jay-Z & Kanye West – Paris
  9. Skillet – Monster
  10. J Cole – MIDDLE CHILD

Positive workout music

On the other hand, there were a handful of songs that regularly appeared in workout playlists that scored positively in our sentiment analysis.

  1. Kanye West – POWER
  2. Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa – One Kiss
  3. Dynoro – In My Mind
  4. A$Ap Rocky & Skepta – Praise the Lord (Da Shine)
  5. R3HAB – All Around the World (La La La)

These positive songs suggest that it isn’t all about the lyrics when choosing the ideal workout playlist, especially considering Kanye West tops both the positive and the negative charts. These positive songs, however, featured in our survey of 500 playlists only 149 times, compared with the negative songs, which featured over 700 times in total. While some positive tunes were able to make themselves present, it doesn’t compare to our love of angry lyrics to get in the zone.

Music’s effects on focus and mood

The psychological effects of music have been studied in a variety of ways in an attempt to understand how it influences our moods, our physiological reactions and our levels of concentration. These are all essential factors in reaching our personal goals in the gym, so it’s interesting to see how these studies are reflected in the findings of our playlist survey.

This study suggests music contributes to increased oxygen uptake, flexibility and wellbeing, as well as reduced blood pressure. Another noted that music with lyrics was related to an improved level of perceived exertion and heart rate when compared with music without lyrics. These studies indicate that music has a distinct effect on our physiology and psychology while exercising but also that the kind of music we listen to can have a profound effect on our performance.

With our own research demonstrating that negative music is way more popular with gym-goers, we could conclude that lyrics that convey anger and frustration create the optimal psychological environment to reach our exercise goals while also tackling our own frustrations and insecurities. For those returning to the gym after a long period away, dust off your playlist and see whether you can optimise it any further with tunes that are favoured by people working out around the world.

This article was written by Damon Culbert from A-List Nutrition, fitness supplement stockists for leading US brands in the UK.