ROCKVILLE, Md. — Looking for a way to take your workout to the next level? A new study finds warming up first may do the trick, but researchers aren’t talking about stretching. Scientists reveal rubbing deep heat cream on your muscles before exercise can improve your endurance.
The lotion, normally for soothing sore muscles after a workout, can actually boost athletic performance as well. Researchers discovered that those using muscle heat creams could continue exercising for two minutes longer than normal.
Researchers, presenting the findings at the American Physiological Society’s (APS) annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2021, used a group of male volunteers cycling at 80 percent of their capacity after applying the cream. Each volunteer participated in two trials. In the first, the team applied a thin layer of a commercially available deep heat cream to the cyclist’s feet, calves, thighs, and buttocks.
In the second trial, researchers repeated the exercise with a placebo cream instead. During each trial, participants continued pedaling on a stationary bike until they were too tired to continue.
What’s the secret ingredient to heat cream’s power?
The team from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore then measured each volunteer’s time-to-exhaustion under both conditions. The results show men heating up with the actual muscle cream could continue exercising longer before exhaustion set in. These creams, readily available over the counter, contain ingredients such as methyl salicylate, menthol, glyceryl stearate, eucalyptus, turpentine oils, lanolin, and water.
“Most studies have shown that athletes use deep heat cream for rehabilitative and pain-relief purposes for pre, post and during exercise,” study author Dr. Govindasamy Balasekaran explains in a statement to SWNS. “However, limited studies have indicated the effects of deep heat on enhancing aerobic performance.”
“Application of deep heat [cream] may help elite athletes, recreational and/or sports enthusiasts to improve their aerobic performance,” Balasekaran adds in a media release. “More studies are needed to explore the benefits of application of deep heat on exercise performance for both [sexes] and analyze the physiological mechanisms behind the improvement.”
The Experimental Biology conference is the annual meeting of five societies that explore the latest research in physiology, anatomy, biochemistry and molecular biology, investigative pathology and pharmacology.
SWNS writer Jim Leffman contributed to this report.