Things are rough right now – we all know it. We hoped the mess would stay behind in 2020, but the first week of 2021 has proved just as tumultuous. In addition to all that, it’s also January, a time when people make resolutions for the new year. If your resolution was to up your health and fitness game, you’re not alone – many people have turned to working out at home or outdoors, thanks to the noted mental health benefits of exercise and the rash of at-home workout devices and classes designed to help you sweat in your living room. Working out won’t solve all your problems, but it might make you feel better for a little bit.

I made that same resolution in January of last year – I figured that all my gaming made me just a little too sedentary. Everything was normal for the first month or two, but then lockdown hit, making my options a little more limited. I couldn’t see any of my friends or my partner, work had slowed down, and I was down in the dumps with nothing to do. I had been using my parents’ treadmill to walk, but I was unsatisfied with it. After sitting outside on my porch for a little while and noticing how much better I felt when the sun was on me, I decided to try running outside.

Next came the question of what I would listen to while running. I was tired of most of my existing music, as I’d listened to it while I was on the treadmill. Around this time, I discovered the album Poké & Chill by Mikel. Me and Pokémon go way back – like, way back – and the album really struck a nostalgic chord with me. The only problem was that it was, well, chill: it was great to write to, but it wasn’t really the kind of pumped-up music you listen to while running. I did a little more research and found out that the album was published by a label called GameChops. They had lots of other albums in their collection that were remixes based on games I’d played, so I took a chance and added a couple of them to my playlist. Sometime in the fall, I went on my first run with Dopamine Road from Ridge Racer playing in the background.

Poke & Chill

Poké & Chill by Mikel – published on the  GameChops label

Running while listening to gaming tunes changed my life. It brought together two things that, up until this point, had been totally separate – gaming and exercise. I’d occasionally watched streams or VODs while on the treadmill, but it was always just something to distract me from the fact that I was tired and sweaty. Gaming music made me feel more energized than anything else I’d tried; for the first time, I wanted to work out. I listened to Dopamine Road while running so many times that when it comes up on shuffle in other situations, I immediately feel more energized. I’ve listened to remixes, actual in-game tracks (Seasick from Splatoon 2 is a banger), and basically anything else associated with games. Most of the music doesn’t have lyrics, either, which is an unexpected plus. If you’re like me, you have to sing along when a song you know comes on, but that can be pretty tricky when you’re panting and totally out of breath. (I just hum furiously instead.)

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Whenever something bad happened and it seemed like the world was closing in, I went on a run. Maybe it didn’t solve anything, but for that brief amount of time that I was moving and getting sunshine and fresh air, I really did feel better. Knowing that the world is still moving despite everything that attempts to tear us down and that simple pleasures like feeling the sun on your face can still be experienced, even in lockdown, helped my mood immensely. Listening to gaming music was the cherry on top of the sundae – everything feels better when you’re grooving to nostalgic tunes that remind you of happier times.

Ridge Racer

Ridge Racer Forever by RoBTKA – published on the GameChops label

After enjoying gaming music so much during workouts, I started listening to it during other activities, too. I’m writing this article to the GameChops Study Lounge livestream, and I have an entire Youtube playlist dedicated to Pokémon route music. People say Mario Kart music is so exciting that it makes them work and study faster. In a time of such hardship, little things that make us smile have the power to really improve our mood and state of being.

If you’ve been having trouble getting motivated to work out or just can’t seem to find your groove, gaming music might be the thing for you. You don’t have to run, lift weights, or even walk; just moving and stretching can give benefits. If you’re ready to take the next step—literally—try blasting game remixes next time you work out. It just might make you enjoy exercise.

GameChops’ entire discography is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music, and you can find most other gaming soundtracks on Youtube.