Can subliminal messaging make you train harder?

New research shows that hidden messages in videos can make riders perform better in training without them knowing it

Hidden messages in videos make cyclists train harder without realising it.

That’s what a team of scientists at British universities have discovered from a bizarre experiment.

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They put seven men and six women on bikes in a lab and showed them videos while they pedalled until they were exhausted.

What the guinea pigs didn’t know was that the boffins had slipped ultra-short secret pictures and messages into the videos.

They included happy faces, sad faces and positive words like “go” and energy”.

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The blipverts were so fleeting that the cyclists could not consciously see them – they lasted one fiftieth of a second.

They flashed on the screen and were gone before the human lab rats were aware of them, although they still got into their brains.

And they had a remarkable effect.

Cyclists whose videos had the hidden happy faces kept going three minutes longer, compared to when the sad faces were zapped into their heads, before collapsing exhausted.

The effect of the subliminal positive words was even greater. They added five whole minutes to a cyclist’s endurance.

And remarkably, the riders who kept going for longest didn’t realise that their performances had been boosted. The secret messages had tricked them into raising their game.

This research, at the University of Kent, is a world first to demonstrate that subliminal visual cues can directly affect performance during exercise.

Also, it confirms that the perception of how much effort someone thinks they are using can be altered during exercise. This can then have a knock-on effect on their overall endurance capacity.

Apart from asking your friends to hack positive messages into the videos you watch on your indoor trainer, you’ll have to wait for the next part of the research.

Google glasses could be worn in training, indoors and out on the road, to beam instant subliminal cues into your head.