Why smiling can make your performance better when running


Smiling can have a positive effect on your performance.

That was the conclusion reached by a study at the University of Ulster, in Northern Ireland.

“We found that a smile produces a relaxing effect and that causes a reduction in body tension that is generated by the effort,” researcher Noel Brick, a professor of sports psychology and physical activity, told the BBC.

“That improves the feelings of the person,” he said.

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Image caption According to the investigation a person could improve up to three minutes in a distance of 42 kilometers.


The investigation analyzed the records of 24 runners who had to complete four sessions of six minutes on a treadmill, with two minutes of rest between each of them.

The participants had sessions smiling and frowning, consciously relaxing their hands and upper body, as well as others in which they maintained a normal concentration.

In a marathon means to lower your time in about three minutes

Noel Brick

During the session they also had to use a mask to measure the amount of energy they were spending.

The results revealed that runners used 2.8% less energy when they smiled than when they did grinning, and that they kept 2.2% more energy when they maintained their concentration.

The reason for this improvement is that the smile produces a “relaxing effect on the body and that allows them to run more easily,” said Brick.

Tired runner
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Image caption A more serious and annoying expression can cause a greater expenditure of energy.

Hold the effort

The researchers mentioned as an example the case of one of the best marathoners in history, the Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, Olympic gold medalist.

“He has stated in several interviews that he uses the smile as a means to withstand the effort,” explained the professor at the University of Ulster.

“Surely in his case he discovered that mechanism through his experience.”

Although the levels at which the efficiency of the use of our energy is improved do not seem very high, the certain thing is that “to improve the yield in a 2%, in a test like the marathon means to lower your time in about three minutes”.

Eliud Kipchoge winning the Rio 2016 marathon.
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Image caption Kipchoge usually smiles in the final stages of the marathon to try to relax his body.


Brick himself acknowledged that the formula can be extended to all types of runners, from the elite to the amateurs, as he has been able to personally verify.

“I also run marathons and when I’m having problems I try to smile,” he told the BBC.

“What happens next is that other people wonder why I’m smiling.”

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