Exercise prescription is a multifaceted topic with the singular goal of defining a protocol that maximizes health and adherence. The ACSM guidelines reference previous results that there is an intensity threshold to continually improve fitness and reduce disease risk. The threshold for well-trained individuals is 95-100% max heart rate (HR) whereas the threshold for less-trained individuals is only 70-80% max to achieve the same benefits. Exercising at these intensities can be uncomfortable and unpleasant leading to low compliance. However, past research has demonstrated that engaging distractions such as an instructor, music, or digital images can enhance enjoyment while diminishing rate of perceived exertion (RPE). It is therefore possible that an instructor-guided workout with digital images synchronized to music could be the ideal combination to reach higher intensities with a lower perception of effort.
PURPOSE: Our aim was to compare an audio (AUD; music only) environment with an immersive (IMM; music + digital images) environment during group fitness cycling classes in both well-trained and less-trained individuals.
METHODS: To date, 6 elite participants (more than 10 hours PA/wk) and 6 novice (less than 2 hours PA/wk) completed 8 AUD and 8 IMM classes in 8 wks. Both class formats were approximately 40 minutes in duration with parallel strength and speed intervals led by an instructor. We collected HR (% time in 80-100% max zone) during each class and survey data (RPE, satisfaction, enjoyment) immediately after each class.
RESULTS: For the elite participants, % time in the max zone and RPE were significantly greater during AUD (54 + 8%; 18 + 1) compared to IMM (46 + 9%; 15 + 2; p < 0.05). In contrast, for the novice participants, RPE was significantly less during IMM (16 + 2) compared to AUD (18 + 1; p < 0.05) while the % time in the max HR zone did not differ between the two conditions (AUD = 62 + 11%; IMM = 64 + 12%; all values mean + sd). Satisfaction ratings were high for both groups and both conditions, but the novice participants rated IMM as more enjoyable than AUD.
CONCLUSION: Both AUD and IMM group fitness cycling formats are an ideal way to meet the exercise guidelines with high satisfaction. IMM may promote adherence in novice participants compared to AUD as HR intensity did not differ, RPE was less and enjoyment was greater.