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Runners Smell

By Dave Hetherington

What you eat and drink before and after exercise has long been known to affect your performance. Now researchers believe that the odors inhaled before and during a workout may also have an impact on fitness. Studies by a sports physiologist, where else but in USA, indicate that the right odor can lessen fatigue and boost activity.

A key scent is peppermint. Athletes were asked to run hard on a treadmill while inhaling one of four smells - a particular peppermint blend, jasmine, dimethyl sulphide (a gas) or a non-odor control. While they ran, tests were carried out on heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen uptake. Those on the peppermint mixture perceived themselves to be making significantly less effort and were less frustrated with their performance than other groups.

They also experienced an increase in nasal and lung dilation, allowing more blood and oxygen to reach the muscles, so enhancing strength and endurance.

The ‘scented’ athletes were more motivated to keep going longer, which allegedly confirms previous studies, which helped basketball players to run harder and faster as well as doing more press-ups in a set time. Many scents send signals to the brain to enhance strength; but many don't of course. And we all know what those are.

The minty smell that gives athletes an edge may also help them to score better on task tests involving intense concentration and visual-motor quickness. These are important factors in many sports as well as working life. When it comes to post effort cool-down, sniffing jasmine oil has been shown to have a far greater muscle relaxing benefit than other smells, changing rooms excepted.

Should we all sniff something minty before running? Sure! And because women have a better sense of smell, this give them an a bit of advantage. The increased nasal and lung dilation does not necessarily result in improved aerobic capacity; no more air may be breathed in or out than normal. But you might think more air is getting into your lungs and therefore believe that performance is improved.

Probably the most important thing that smelling this interesting scent can do is boost your motivation and many would say that it is at least worth trying.

So if there is a pleasant smell in the air when you run, anything could happen.

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