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Workout Goggles? Study Shows Exercise Transforms WHAT We See

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It seems like every day a new app or tech gadget comes along that tracks fitness-related activities. From monitoring our heart rate… to counting the steps we take… to estimating the calories we burn, we are measuring more and more as technology advances rapidly.

Imagine, for a moment, that we could go even further... and somehow measure not just what activities we perform, but how they affect our perception of the world. Imagine that we could determine how exercise impacts our view of our environment.

Researchers at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada, conducted a study that did just that. They found that exercise changes our perception of our environment, making it appear less threatening. We all know that working out reduces stress, but this study gives us some insight into why: it changes what we see. Apparently, exercise creates “workout goggles” that help us view our surroundings in a more positive way.

Participants in the study were asked to step onto a treadmill and either stand, walk, or jog for 10 minutes. Afterwards, they viewed a 3D simulation of a stick figure walking and were asked if the figure was walking towards or away from them. Those who engaged in exercise (the walking and jogging groups) were less likely to see it as facing towards them compared with the sedentary group.

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Biomotion Lab Configurable Point Light Walker www.biomotionlab.ca

The researchers used "orthographically projected stick figure walkers," which is a fancy term to describe a series of moving dots that depict a person walking. These images lack orientation in depth, so they can be seen as either walking towards, or away from, the viewer. It's a bit like those optical illusions where you can see an older woman or a younger one... and which one you see reflects on you.

In this case, one can see the stick figure as facing the viewer, which is a threatening movement considered a sign of viewer fear... or the viewer can see the stick figure as walking away, which is a retreating movement and a sign of a relaxed state. The researchers state that when our anxiety increases, we are more likely to think this ambiguous figure is "coming after us." Conversely, when we are calm, we are more inclined to view it walking away. Those who exercised saw the image as walking away, exhibiting a reduced anxiety state.

The researchers concluded that "exercise... literally change[s] the way people perceive the world, altering their perception so that they view the environment in a less threatening, less negative way."

This study helps confirm what many of all have felt: When we move, we feel better... both physically and emotionally. So, exercise today and put on those “workout goggles” to see the world better.

We'd love to hear from you. Are you surprised by this study? Comment on our Facebook page at facebook.com/flytefitness or tweet us at @flytefitness.

Be Flyte Fit,

Jeremy Greenberg

Co-Founder & CEO
Flyte Fitness