New study suggests smiling makes running easier, faster

woman running smiling behind her
Smile through the pain. Photo credit: Getty.

If you get fatigued, sore or just plain bored on long runs, a new study has found there's one simple trick that may make them easier - smiling. 

While it might be the toughest thing to do when you're in pain, the research published in the journal Psychology of Sports and Exercise suggests smiling makes running easier by helping reduce muscle tension and distract runners from the toll it's taking on their bodies. 

Researchers from a university in Ireland conducted tests on trained athletes running intervals on a treadmill. 

The runners exhibited different body language, including smiling and frowning while wearing a breathing mask. 

The results revealed that the participants used 2.8 percent less energy when smiling compared to frowning, and also conserved 2.2 percent more energy in comparison to normal attention focus.

"The main reason for the 2.8 percent improvement in running economy, we believe, was that smiling helped participants to relax and reduce muscle tension without deliberately, or consciously trying to relax," said the study's lead researcher, Noel Brick.

"We know that runners are more efficient when they are relaxed, so this seems the most likely reason."

Dr Brick said the results show that focusing on pleasant thoughts when smiling could distract runners from feelings of effect during running.