Loughborough University, the world’s leading Sports Science university, and performance car brand Abarth have revealed that driving a car around a racetrack significantly boosts a person’s mood compared to a gym workout.
The positive emotional benefits of physical exercise are known, however, the psychological impact of track driving isn’t as well documented.
Therefore, the Circuit Training Mood Test was commissioned to explore the differing emotional responses between a gym workout and driving around a racetrack.
It found that on average people were 59% happier when driving an Abarth around a racetrack compared to taking part in a gym workout.
Breaking the findings down by type of exercise found levels of happiness were 116% higher when the attendees were driving versus undertaking a cardio workout.
Interestingly, there was only a marginal difference in mood (4%) between track driving and a weights session.
Meanwhile, it found that people were 20% happier when completing a precision driving circuit compared to a gym workout consisting of cardio and a weights session, and 63% happier when compared to cardio alone.
In addition, the experiment looked at how being a passenger on a hot lap impacted levels of enjoyment.
It revealed that jumping in the passenger seat next to a professional driver was on average 77% more enjoyable than a combined gym workout consisting of cardio and resistance training.
Going further into the detail, sitting in the passenger seat was 141% more enjoyable over a cardio only workout. Moreover, it was still 16% more mood boosting than resistance training, highlighting that mood benefits aren’t just restricted to the driver’s seat.
Abarth and Loughborough University also established that in terms of exercise, mood was more positively impacted by taking part in weight training rather than aerobic exercise. Results showed feelings of happiness were 108% higher when pumping iron over a cardio session.
How the experiment was conducted
Attendees took part in the one-day experiment where they drove an Abarth F595, 595 Esseesse and 595 Competizione around Mallory Park Race Circuit, as well as experiencing a hot lap from a professional driver.
Loughborough University then put on a set of cardio and resistance training exercises at its world class sporting facility.
To scientifically calculate peoples’ moods, an array of different measures and technologies were used, including class-leading facial recognition technology being set up in the gym and cars to track peoples’ facial expressions, a heart rate monitor, a medical grade wearable wristwatch and self-assessment questionnaire.
• Loughborough University and Abarth carry out experiment to see which positively impacts a person’s mood more – track driving or a gym workout • Driving an Abarth around a racetrack sparked feelings of happiness on average 59% more than a gym workout • Levels of happiness significantly higher in the driving challenge compared to cardio activity (116%), but marginally higher versus a weights session (4%) • Being driven around a racetrack by a professional driver 77% more enjoyable than a gym session and 141% more pleasurable when looking only at the cardio workout • Test also found attendees’ levels of happiness 108% higher when doing weight training versus cardio
The combination of physiological and psychological measures enabled Loughborough University to accurately detect the emotions that were experienced during each activity, including feelings of happiness, surprise, excitement, arousal, anger and sadness.
Reader in Digital Health, Dr Dale Esliger at Loughborough University, who led the experiment said: “It is widely reported about how important physical activity is, not only for a person’s physical wellbeing but also their emotional state.
“However, we know much less about how driving – specifically on a racetrack – can impact an individual’s mood.
“The preliminary data indicates that while both the track and gym activity had positive emotional benefits, in this case, the thrill of the track driving element undoubtedly came out on top in boosting the mood of the attendees.
Greg Taylor, Fiat and Abarth, UK Managing Director, added: “Our products are not only designed to excite drivers on the road, but they’re also perfect track day cars too.
“We always knew anecdotally that the levels of joy our cars bring to the driver and passengers, but now we have some preliminary data from one of the world’s leading sport science universities to back that up.”
Starting from the 595 for those who want to enter the Abarth world, all Abarth’s offer performance, adrenaline and excitement when on the road. One of Abarth’s most distinctive features has always been its sound with people hearing an Abarth before you see it. With Koni rear suspension, the driver feels more connected to the road giving a sporty driving experience and superior control over performance.