You see them at the gym; you see them in the park, you see them along the streets: people deep into some form of exercise and in their own world thanks to the ear-buds they’re wearing. Since the introduction of aerobic dance in the early 70’s, music seems to have become not only a basic element of many people’s personal exercise routines, but an essential part of things from spin classes to Zumba.

While some people listen to music to fight the boredom of, say, miles of running on a treadmill or along an all-too-familiar route, many experts say that the combination of the beat and the mood set by some music can actually improve performance and motivation. There is even clinical evidence that the right music can reduce the exerciser’s sense of fatigue, increase levels of mental arousal, improve motor coordination, and increase relaxation.

For the last 20 years, Costas Karageorghis, a sports psychologist at Britain’s Brunel University, has been working to understand the connection between our ability to move and our need to groove. According to Kargeorghis, there are four factors that contribute to a song’s motivational qualities: rhythm response, musicality, cultural impact and association. However, the most important factor Kargeorghis has identified is the beats per minute, or BPM, of the music being listened to. Put most simply, it turns out that synchronizing beats per minute with an exercise pace increases your efficiency.

So, the big question is, what should you listen to while you’re exercising?

Obviously, a lot depends on personal taste. But Women’s Health Magazine has compiled a list of songs geared toward specific exercises that almost anyone –men or women- can use to spice up that routine, help you crank out that last several sets of bends, or log that extra mile. Here are some of their suggestions:

Alternative Ab Moves
Good workout songs for your abs moves. Play two songs per move and a 6-pack should peek after one session

  1. My Only Friend by Deadsy
  2. Wild Packs of Family Dogs by Modest Mouse
  3. Kissing the Lipless by The Shins
  4. Into the Open by Heartless Bastards
  5. Cold Blooded Old Times by Smog
  6. Panic Open String by Calexico
  7. Blame It On the Tetons by Josh Ritter
  8. Feel the Same by Anders Parker

For Running
A power song workout mix with beats that are scientifically proven to help you run faster

  1. Harder to Breathe by Maroon 5
  2. SOS by Rihanna
  3. Firestarter by The Prodigy
  4. Another One Bites the Dust by Queen
  5. Girlfriend by Avril Lavigne
  6. Pump It Up by Elvis Costello
  7. B.O.B. by OutKast
  8.  The Rockafeller Skank by Fatboy Slim
  9. Here It Goes Again by Ok Go
  10. She Wants to Move by N.E.R.D.
  11. Runnin’ Down a Dream by Tom Petty
  12. Around the World by Daft Punk

Strength Training
A 2006 study at York St. John University in the U.K. found that students could hold a 2.4-pound weight straight out in front of their bodies at shoulder height for up to 10 percent longer when they listened to a workout music mix that had motivational pop or rock music for an entire torturous session; so here’s a workout music mix for when you’re struggling with that final set of lunges

  1. Let’s Get Loud by Jennifer Lopez
  2. You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ by Judas Priest
  3. Jump Around by House Of Pain
  4. Set Me Free by Velvet Revolver
  5. Kick Out the Jams by MC5
  6. The Rising by Bruce Springsteen
  7. Beautiful Day by U2
  8. Let’s Go by Trick Daddy
  9. Something More by Sugarland
  10. Ray of Light by Madonna
  11. Get Up Stand Up by Bob Marley