LISTENING to the right kind of music can improve your sporting performance by as much as 20 per cent, according to scientists.
Just as specific songs can stir memories that make couples reminisce and feel romantic, experts say a favourite song can motivate an exerciser to keep going and work harder.
The tempo of music can enhance the body's motor skills and even teach it new ones as the beat regulates movement and prolongs performance.
For fans of rock music, during light exercise the researchers say they might want to listen to Tina Turner's Simply The Best, but as they get into more strenuous music they should progress through a rocking playlist of Keep On Running by the Spencer Davis Group, Born To Be Wild by Steppenwolf and finally, as they struggle through the final stages of the most strenuous exercise, Glen Frey's The Heat Is On.
The traditional view is that up-beat dance music boosts performance by making the exerciser speed up.
But, according to the researchers, it is all about individual taste. It is well-known that Scottish tennis sensation Andy Murray gets himself geared up for the strains of a competitive tennis match with the sounds of the Black Eyed Peas.
Olympic rowing champion James Cracknell is another who has used music to achieve success, as he blasted the classic Red Hot Chili Peppers' album Blood Sugar Sex Magik before helping Britain to a gold medal at Athens last year.
Dr Costa Karageorghis, of Brunel University's school of sport and education, said: "It's no secret that music inspires superior performance. Just as the association between a first love and 'your song' can be very strong, so is the relationship between music and sporting performance levels. However, there's no definitive playlist for today's gym goers or tomorrow's sporting heroes. Songs are particular to an individual - they are not prescriptive."
Dr Karageorghis believes specific artists and songs can be selected in whichever musical genre the athlete likes in order to boost their performance levels at different stages of exertion. While pop fans may get an initial boost during light exercise by listening to the Lighthouse Family, they should progress to the frenzy of Reach by S Club 7 when the going gets tough.
Dr Ray Macdonald, a reader in psychology at Glasgow Caledonian University, says that his own research supports the findings, and suggests that music can play an important role not only in improving performance, but also in reducing pain.
"It is very important that people do adapt music to their own personal tastes if they want to maximise performance. Classical music would not normally be expected to boost sporting performance, but it will boost the performance of classical music fans," he said.
"Gyms try to cater for their core customers by playing a certain type of music but you still see a lot of people with headphones on. This control of our own environment can significantly aid performance."
However, Dr Angus Hunter, a lecturer in exercise physiology at Stirling University, does not agree that people are only motivated by the genre of music that they like. "A 65-year-old guy might not like the latest chart music in the gym," he says. "But he will find himself picking up on the beats.
"Gyms cannot please everyone but fast beats for step machines do help motivate. Intuitively, the legs start to move at the same pace."
Zoe Wilson-Maye, deputy manager at LA Fitness in Livingston, said that the chain had recently introduced a TV system, where members can choose the station they want to listen to.
She added: "Everyone has different tastes and you are more likely to maximise your performance in the gym if you are enjoying your workout. Listening to music you enjoy is an important part of that."
What to play while you work out
• At 55 per cent heart rate: Rock - Tina Turner Simply the Best; Pop - Lighthouse Family Lifted; Soul - Soul II Soul Back To Life; Classical - Vivaldi The Four Seasons (Spring).
• 65 per cent: Rock - Spencer Davis Group Keep On Running; Pop - Michael Jackson Don't Stop Til You Get Enough; Soul - Gloria Gaynor I Will Survive; Classical - Johann Strauss Radetzky March.
• 75 per cent: Rock - Steppenwolf Born To Be Wild; Pop - Artful Dodger Movin' Too Fast; Soul - James Brown I Feel Good; Classical -Prokofiev Troika.
• 85 per cent: Rock - Glenn Frey The Heat Is On; Pop - S Club 7 Reach; Soul - The Blues Brothers Everybody Needs Somebody To Love; Classical - Rossini William Tell Overture.
Any runners out there with better suggestions can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org . The lack of jazz from the above list saddens this corespondent.