According to a new study from King's College London, all it takes is a few seconds of...listening to birds?
The study, published in Scientific Reports, found that hearing or seeing birdlife is linked to improved mental wellbeing that can last up to eight hours.
The researchers used the Urban Mind smartphone app to collect real-time reports of mental well-being from participants alongside reports of seeing or hearing birdsong. The study took place between April 2018 and October 2021 and included 1,292 participants from around the world, with the majority being based in the UK, EU, and US.
The app asked participants three times a day whether they could see or hear birds, followed by questions on mental wellbeing. This enabled researchers to establish a link between birds and mental wellbeing and to estimate how long this link lasted. The study found that encounters with birdlife were associated with long-lasting improvements in mental wellbeing for both healthy individuals and those with depression*.
If you can't physically go to a park or natural area, try bringing a bit of nature into your home by setting up a bird feeder or maybe listening to bird sounds online.
As I delved into the details of this fascinating study, I couldn't resist the urge to search for a birdsong video on YouTube. To my surprise, I found that listening to the chirping of these avian wonders on a screen just didn't have the same soothing effect as hearing them in their natural habitat. In fact, it was almost unsettling.
Maybe it's just a personal preference, but I'll stick to enjoying them in the great outdoors from now on.
*Disclaimer: This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy. I am not a Mental Health Provider. Please consult with a qualified Mental Health Provider if you have any questions or concerns that relate to your own life situation.
If you're like many of us, your phone is never far from reach - even when you're hitting the gym. But before you whip out your device for a quick scroll through social media before your next workout, you might want to think twice.
A recent study from Brazil found that using social media apps on your phone for just 30 minutes before a workout can lead to higher ratings of perceived exertion and lower estimates of reps in reserve. In other words, those who spent time on their phones before their workout felt more fatigued and less able to complete additional reps compared to a control group who watched a documentary before their workout.
Now, it's important to note that the sample size for this study was small, and more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between phone use and workout performance. But, it's still worth considering the role that phone use may play in your own workouts.
If you find yourself feeling mentally exhausted before even starting your workout, it might be worth taking a break from your phone beforehand to ensure that you can give your best effort during your training. And, if you're having trouble staying fully engaged and motivated during your workouts, it's worth considering the role that phone use could be playing.
While it's important to stay connected, it's also crucial to prioritize your health and fitness goals. So next time you hit the gym, try leaving your phone locked away and giving your full attention to your training. You might just find that you're able to achieve better results and feel more motivated in the process.
Also read: Happiness Hacks: The Surprising Role of Focus and Attention on Mood
Sun H, Soh KG, Roslan S, Wazir MRWN, Soh KL. Does mental fatigue affect skilled performance in athletes? A systematic review. PLoS One. 2021 Oct 14;16(10):e0258307.
Stroop, JR. Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 18, 643-662.
Lima-Junior D de, Fortes LS, Ferreira MEC, Gantois P, Barbosa BT, Albuquerque MR, et al. Effects of smartphone use before resistance exercise on inhibitory control, heart rate variability, and countermovement jump. Appl Neuropsychol Adult. 2021 Nov 8;1–8.
Gantois P, Lima-Júnior D de, Fortes L de S, Batista GR, Nakamura FY, Fonseca F de S. Mental Fatigue From Smartphone Use Reduces Volume-Load in Resistance Training: A Randomized, Single-Blinded Cross-Over Study. Percept Mot Skills. 2021 Aug;128(4):1640–59.
As a fitness professional, I tend to incorporate supersets into my strength-based classes and with some clients, depending on their goals and preferences.
While there are certainly benefits to this type of workout, it's important to consider both the pros and the cons before making a decision about whether to include them in your training routine.
One of the main advantages of supersets is that they can be a time-saving alternative to traditional strength training. By performing two exercises for opposing muscle groups back to back, you can get a lot of work done in a short amount of time. This can be particularly appealing for those who are short on time or looking to add some variety to their workouts.
In addition to being time-efficient, supersets can also be more challenging and provide greater "cardio" benefits than straight sets. A recent study from the University of New Mexico found that supersets elicited higher average VO2, heart rate, and blood lactate levels, as well as higher perceived exertion and higher aerobic and anaerobic energy expenditure per minute compared to straight sets. However, it's worth noting that the straight-set workout actually burned more total calories, although this difference may have been made up if the energy expenditure after the superset workout had been accounted for.
Despite these benefits, there are also some downsides to consider when it comes to supersets. One of the main drawbacks is that they may feel harder due to the shorter rest periods. If you're someone who prefers a more traditional strength training approach with heavier weights and longer rest periods, then supersets may not be the best fit for you.
In conclusion, while supersets can be a useful tool for saving time and adding variety to your workouts, they may not be suitable for everyone. The most important thing is to find a workout that is enjoyable and sustainable for you, as this is what will help you stick with it in the long run. If you're considering incorporating supersets into your training routine, it's a good idea to start with lighter weights and shorter rest periods and gradually increase the intensity as you become more comfortable with the format. So, it's always better to consult with a fitness professional before starting any new workout routine. Here's a sneak peek at an online class I taught featuring high-intensity supersets with active recovery. Watch the video below to see how I incorporated this time-saving workout technique into a dynamic fitness class.