Trying to kick up the intensity of your cycling workouts in class or at home? New research from the University of Florida found cyclists who completed a simple visual or verbal task while on a stationary bike increased their speed by 25 percent. Pretty impressive, huh?
In the study, 20 healthy adults were asked to multitask while biking. First they completed “easy activities” such as saying “go” every time a blue star lit up on a projection screen over their bike, naming the color of a word, and picking out specific symbol—all of which increased participants’ speed. Then, they were asked to perform more difficult tasks like repeating long lists of numbers from memory and checking math problems while on the bike—both of which caused the participants to slow down.
According to the researchers, exercise and mental tasks trigger mental stimulation, releasing more neurotransmitters in the brain, which help you perform better mentally and physically—but only if the mental tasks are simple. So that common adage that multitasking lowers performance rings true.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should hop on a bike with some complicated algebra, the lead researchers are currently developing follow-up studies to see what you can and can’t do, and how other combinations of cardio and mental tasks affect performance. We’ve already seen how subliminal messages can help runners go farther.
In the meantime, bring a magazine or an easy game onto the bike with you and see if it boosts your speeds. Just keep it simple. Unless you’re a certifiable genius, a Rubik’s cube is definitely out of the question.