Can Latin American Music Make You Fit? Here’s How| 06 June, 2018
Walk into any gym or watch people out running in the park at the weekend, and the majority of them will have earphones firmly plugged in while they put their bodies through their paces. It makes sense – after all, running on a treadmill or in the great outdoors is a perfect time to listen to music.
And the right Latin American music can make a real difference to your workout, and particularly to running. You will find yourself literally moving to the beat of the song. That, of course, raises the question of what is the right song and the right beat? Let’s find out.
Different tempos for different running styles
When you are using music as a soundtrack to physical activity, the style and rhythm of any particular Latin American style can really make a difference. Running is all about rhythm, and if you can create a playlist that is attuned to your running pace, it will help you stay steady and on target.
That sounds simple enough in theory, but first you need to find out what your ideal running pace is. As a general rule, 180 beats per minute (BPM) is what you need if you are running hard and pushing yourself. To give an idea, When the Night is Over by Latin salsa legend and one-time spouse of Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, would fit the bill, or at the other extreme, Tita by Argentinian ska rocker Sol Pereyra is also spot on.
If, on the other hand, a gentle jog is more what you had in mind, 120 BPM is better. Anything with a tango-style rhythm is perfect, and examples include To Say Goodbye by Edu Lobo and Sweet Dreams by Tanghetto.
Those BPM figures are fine as a rough guide, but we are all different and the best idea for finding out what’s right for you is to go through a process that is a little like calibrating your own legs. It is simple enough to do if you have a treadmill, a stopwatch and a willing assistant to hand. Get into your usual rhythm on the treadmill for either a gentle or more strenuous run, and then have your assistant start the stopwatch. They then need to count how many times your right foot lands in the space of a minute. Multiply the result by two, to allow for both legs, and you have your target BPM.
Find the perfect music for the tempo
Suppose you have found that your ideal running speed is 140 BPM. Now all you need to do is find the music to match the tempo. There are several ways to do this, and the technological age makes it easy. This online BPM finder allows you to find the BPM of your favorite tunes in a few different ways. One is to simply drag and drop your audio files. It’s an elegant solution, as it means you are only analyzing those songs that are already in your playlist, and therefore, presumably, the ones you like listening to.
But what if you only have a fairly limited playlist, and the resulting analysis provides just two songs at 140 BPM? It sounds like you need to broaden your horizons, and fortunately, the same tool is linked to a database containing over five million songs from Latin America and, indeed, across a range of other genres.
Give it a try with the above example and you are immediately presented with a list of Latin songs that might well surprise you, including the works of Alex Ubago, Los Diablitos and Karamelo Santo to name but a few.
Can music push you to greater achievements?
So far, we have talked about matching the music to the running, but there are two sides to every coin. Once you are armed with this information about BPM and your natural running pace, you can apply the science to push yourself harder. There are certain things the body is automatically hardwired to do, and one of them is to synchronize your actions to any steady beat.
The strong percussion and rhythmic drum beat associated with Latin American music makes this particularly the case. So it follows that if your natural rhythm is 140 BPM, then choosing a 160 BPM playlist could be the perfect way to up your pace and take yourself to the next level. It will also give you a whole new playlist to enjoy on your next run!
Enjoy your fitness with the right music
Even if you do not want to push yourself too hard, and you just like to get out for a run in the park to wind down after a busy day, the music you choose as the soundtrack to your exercise makes a big difference. Now that you understand the science of BPM, your body and your South American sounds, you can ensure that your love of music and your fitness regime work in harmony together.
Follow Sounds and Colours: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Mixcloud / Soundcloud / Bandcamp
Subscribe to the Sounds and Colours Newsletter for regular updates, news and competitions bringing the best of Latin American culture direct to your Inbox.