Multitasking while exercising may benefit your workout, a recent study suggests.
The study — funded by a grant from the National Institute on Aging — was based on how a group of 20 healthy older adults and a group of 28 adults with the neurological disorder Parkinson’s disease performed on cognitive tests while riding stationary bikes. The tests covered six types of brain functions.
For both groups, participants’ cycling speed “unexpectedly” increased while they were simultaneously performing most cognitive tasks.
The study was published in the journal Plos One.
Lead study author Lori Altmann, an associate professor and associate chair in University of Florida’s College of Public Health and Health Professions, tells CBS News that the findings are surprising because many prior studies suggested that multitasking impairs performance:
“Every dual-task study that I know of shows when people are doing two things at once they get worse.”
Researchers even ran their numbers twice to ensure they were correct.
Wendy Suzuki — professor of neural science at New York University and author of “Healthy Brain, Happy Life” — tells CBS that whether multitasking improves exercise performance depends on the exercise:
“There are certainly cases where a cognitive task performance would be inhibited during exercise because key resources would be limited. But this study suggests the novel finding that in some cases the cognitive tests can actually enhance motor performance, which is quite unexpected.”
The study proposes further investigation to help uncover why motor function benefited from multitasking. One possible explanation offered in the report is that cognitive arousal during multitasking may facilitate physical performance.