Korea’s New COVID-19 Rules Restrict the BPM of Music in Gyms

In a wave of new COVID-19 regulations impacting gyms, the South Korean government has restricted what type of music patrons will be allowed to listen to. 

In a move that many perceive to be a blatant overreach, officials are setting the expectation that gyms will not be allowed to play music over 120 BPM (beats per minute) for group fitness classes. That leaves slim pickings for electronic music fans looking to get in the flow during a workout.

The new restriction ostensibly impacts group cardio, aerobics, and spin classes, where invigorating music plays an important role. The regulation is especially counterintuitive given that higher BPM songs generally play a critical role in setting an appropriately brisk group fitness pace, thereby leading to productive workouts. 

As Reuters notes, Korea's President Moon Jae-in appeared at a COVID-19 response meeting and seemed to lament the need for increased restrictions on business owners and the public. "I can't help but feel very sorry to once again ask the citizens for a bit more patience," he said.

It also widely accepted that the presence of music during a workout boosts overall athletic performance and reduces fatigue. For example, studies have concluded that the ideal tempo for running is 123 to 131 BPM, and 125 to 140 BPM for cycling. 

The logic for the BPM restriction comes from a belief that slower workouts will mean less heavy breathing. Less heavy breathing will therefore produce fewer airborne droplets and fewer opportunities to infect nearby patrons by proxy.