A SESSION of driving a quick car around a racetrack beats a trip to the gym for a workout.
That's the finding of a new study by sports science experts at Loughborough University and performance car brand Abarth,
The positive emotional benefits of physical exercise are known, however, the psychological impact of track driving isn't as well documented.
A Circuit Training Mood Test was commissioned to explore the differing emotional responses between a gym workout and driving around a racetrack.
It found that on average people were 59 per cent happier when driving an Abarth around a racetrack compared to taking part in a gym workout.
Breaking the findings down by type of exercise found levels of happiness were 116 per cent higher when the attendees were driving versus undertaking a cardio workout.
Interestingly, there was only a marginal difference in mood (four per cent) between track driving and a weights session.
Meanwhile, it found that people were 20 per cent happier when completing a precision driving circuit compared to a gym workout consisting of cardio and a weights session, and 63 per cent happier when compared to cardio alone.
In addition, the experiment looked at how being a passenger on a hot lap impacted levels of enjoyment.
It revealed that jumping in the passenger seat next to a professional driver was on average 77 per cent more enjoyable than a combined gym workout consisting of cardio and resistance training.
Abarth and Loughborough University also established that in terms of exercise, mood was more positively impacted by taking part in weight training rather than aerobic exercise. Results showed feelings of happiness were 108% higher when pumping iron over a cardio session.
Attendees took part in the one-day experiment where they drove an Abarth F595, 595 Esseesse and 595 Competizione around Mallory Park race circuit, as well as experiencing a hot lap from a professional driver.
Loughborough University then put on a set of cardio and resistance training exercises at its world class sporting facility.
To scientifically calculate peoples' moods, an array of different measures and technologies were used, including class-leading facial recognition technology being set up in the gym and cars to track peoples' facial expressions, a heart rate monitor, a medical grade wearable wristwatch and self-assessment questionnaire.
The combination of physiological and psychological measures enabled Loughborough University to accurately detect the emotions that were experienced during each activity, including feelings of happiness, surprise, excitement, arousal, anger and sadness.
Reader in digital health, Dr Dale Esliger at Loughborough University, who led the experiment said: "It is widely reported about how important physical activity is, not only for a person's physical wellbeing but also their emotional state.
"However, we know much less about how driving - specifically on a racetrack - can impact an individual's mood.
"The preliminary data indicates that while both the track and gym activity had positive emotional benefits, in this case, the thrill of the track driving element undoubtedly came out on top in boosting the mood of the attendees.
Greg Taylor, Fiat and Abarth, UK managing director, added: "Our products are not only designed to excite drivers on the road, but they're also perfect track day cars too.
"We always knew anecdotally that the levels of joy our cars bring to the driver and passengers, but now we have some preliminary data from one of the world's leading sport science universities to back that up."