Not only is it one of the best ways to make a killer first impression, but smiling can have an extra powerful effect on your workout, according to a new study.
The research, published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise, shows that there there’s a very real psychological effect a smile can have on your performance on the track.
To determine their findings, researchers at the Ulster University in Northern Ireland and Swansea University in Wales studied 24 athletes of both sexes. All participants were runners, and were asked to do four separate six-minute treadmill running sessions.
In their first run, they were to smile genuinely. In the second run, they had to frown. In the third, they were told to simply relax. And the final run, they were told to run naturally, as they would on their own before the experiment. While the last run served as the control run, the rest of the runs showed that the choice of emotion you show can actually influence how you feel about your workout overall.
Very quickly researchers noticed that smiling during the run immediately made people not only perform better, but decreased the tension in the runners’ bodies, and allowed for more fluid and natural movements.
But, there was one catch.
In their analysis, the New York Timesnotes that it also depends on what kind of smile it was. As you can imagine, holding a genuine, true smile for six minutes can be a challenge. When the runners began to strain their smiles, the effectiveness of their run was lower. When they smiled naturally, it was, you guessed it, improved.
So instead of smiling during your entire run, make some choice improvements to make it all the more entertaining. Run with a friend and try to out-joke one another. Listen to your favourite funny podcast or comedy album. Take your dog with you — that’s guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. And it could all result in a much more efficient time!