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The Fitness and Appearance project was a collaboration between the Athletic Union and the School of Psychology and Neuroscience, Perception Lab ran by Professor David Perrett. Over the course of just two weekends (3 weeks apart), Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Dr. Sean Talamas and a team of 15 research assistants collected data on over 180 participants, 80 of which came back and were re-assessed in the second phase. The project was aimed at gaining insights into whether improvements in physical fitness are reflected in healthier colouration of skin. Carotenoids are yellow-red pigments from fruit and vegetables which contribute to the colouration of human skin, giving it a “healthy glow”. We have found that people who report doing more exercise have more of this colour in their skin. Hence the carotenoid pigments may provide a cue not just to diet but more generally to all-round health. The purpose of this experiment was to find out if a change in fitness will result in a change in the healthy appearance of skin colour. Additional data on individuals ‘grit’ and ‘conscientiousness’ was gathered to assess participants’ personality in terms of diligence, tenacity, and work ethic and how this may relate to their perceived exertion during the fitness test conducted.

The collaboration between the Perception lab and Athletic Union made it possible to provide detailed fitness reports to participants. By combining resources and funding, sophisticated heart-rate monitoring technology and software was purchased and used to assess athletes’ aerobic fitness. State-of-the-art scales were also used to assess athlete’s body composition. Stations were set up throughout the sports centre to measure participant’s skin colour, record their resting heart rate, administer questionnaires inquiring about participants’ diets, sleep, stress, and prior illnesses. Individualized reports on fitness and body composition were carefully constructed to provide participants (many of which were student athletes) with specific feedback on their fitness.

The successful collaboration between the University’s school of Psychology and Neuroscience and the Athletic Union will likely lead to further research in the Sports Centre. This will provide useful fitness information for student athletes and coaches, as well as valuable data for University researchers. To stay up to date with ongoing projects in the Perception Lab and online experiments, you can follow them on Facebook at facebook.com/PerceptionLabStAndrews or visit their website at perceptionlab.com.

Some pictures from the data collection:

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