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Fitness technology increases satisfaction, lowers perceived exertion in new exercisers

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Credit: Les Mills International

CHICAGO – August 8, 2017 – A new study published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal found that adding visual effects to a structured workout creates an "immersive" fitness experience that increases satisfaction and lowers the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) for new exercisers. The study abstract, titled "Immersive Cycling Environment Yields High Intensity Heart Rate Without High Perceived Effort in Novice Exercisers" is available here.

Jinger Gottschall, associate professor at Penn State University and lead researcher of the study, presented the findings at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 2017 Annual Conference. She says, "The results demonstrate that immersive classes are ideal group fitness environments for newcomers to achieve their fitness goals because they reach a high heart rate zone to get fitter, faster, without feeling the discomfort of the intensity level."

The study analysis found that the RPE, or how hard the participants felt they exercised, was significantly greater for both groups during the audio-only class compared to the immersive class. Novice participants rated RPE 10 percent higher and elite participants rated RPE 15 percent higher in the audio class than the immersive class. Additionally, novice participants experienced greater satisfaction during the immersive class than the audio-only class.

Study findings also established that the time novice participants spent in the two max heart rate zones was equal between the two types of classes. Novice participants spent 62 and 64 percent of time in the max heart rates zones in the audio-only and immersive classes, respectively. Despite this similarity, the novice group reported lower perceived exertion in the immersive environment.

"It is widely recognized in the fitness industry that when new exercisers get into the max heart rate zone they often feel a high level of discomfort, which then contributes to them giving up on their exercise program," says Dr. Gottschall. "The reports of greater satisfaction and enjoyment, despite being in that challenging max heart rate for a significant period of the class, have a major bearing on keeping new exercisers going back for more."

The study compared exercise intensity, satisfaction and perceived exertion from an audio-only cycle class with a class called THE TRIP™, a fully immersive cycling workout experience by Les Mills. THE TRIP features cinema-quality video projected on a floor-to-ceiling curved screen that creates a virtual world for riders. The riders get the sensation of ascending steep glaciers, sprinting around digital velodromes or cruising into a peaceful sunset.

"As a fitness researcher, I believe immersive classes present the ideal combination of engaging distractions for novice exercisers to reach vigorous intensities without high perceived effort," said Bryce Hastings, head of research and technical advisor at Les Mills International. "Technology and exercise are converging to add a visual sense of purpose to the workout, creating an amazing experience that is the future of fitness."

In the study, 20 elite participants who completed more than 10 hours of physical activity per week and 20 novice participants who completed less than two hours of physical activity per week completed eight audio-only and eight immersive cycle classes in random order over an eight-week period.

Researchers measured the time spent in the two maximum heart rate zones (80-90 percent and 90-100 percent) during each class and collected survey data measuring the RPE, satisfaction and enjoyment immediately after each class. Exercise intensity heart rate zones were quantified with a heart rate monitor and chest strap. Perceived exertion was measured by qualitative survey data that included variables such as class satisfaction, challenge and social connection.

Les Mills International funded this research study. Participants completed the study at FITOLOGY, a fitness studio located in State College, PA. Dr. Gottschall is conducting a follow-up study on immersive fitness qualities to further investigate the program's longer term effects on fitness results and the individual's commitment to an exercise program.

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About Les Mills

Les Mills International is the creator of 20 global group fitness and team training programs, including BODYPUMP® (weights), BODYCOMBAT® (martial arts), RPM® (indoor cycling), LES MILLS GRIT® (30-minute high intensity interval training) and LES MILLS SPRINT™ (high-intensity cycling). Every week, millions of people get fit in more than 17,500 clubs across 100 countries with the help of 130,000 passionate Les Mills instructors. The company's SMART TECH™ equipment line combines innovative ergonomic design with quality construction to help people get better results from their workouts in less time. For more information, visit http://www.LesMills.com.

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