The physiological and psychological impact of light on training sessions

Author: Grow Team
Date: 13/02/2018
Category: Row

Here at Grow, we’ve been doing some digging, and have uncovered some pretty interesting things about the implications that colours can have on training sessions…



If you’ve ever been to a hard-core, boot camp-style fitness class, chances are you spent the hour sweating away in a studio lit by intense red lights. There’s a reason for this – as the colour of our blood, it acts as a vivid reminder of our own mortality and as such stimulates our body in a way that no other colour does. Studies show that red can trigger an elevated heart rate and boost levels of testosterone, helping to create a sense of power and dominance – this could help people to push themselves through a tough workout. However, red can also be perceived as aggressive or intimidating, so it should be used with caution, especially if you’re coaching people that are new to exercising or if you’re aiming to create a sense of inclusion and personal achievement.


Orange sits in between red and yellow, colours that have deep physical and psychological impacts, respectively. As such it stimulates both our body and our mind, primarily by evoking a sense of comfort and warmth. However, if it is used with darker colours or black, it can suggest deprivation or danger – which could make people want to run off the treadmill and out the door.


The colour of sunshine, yellow is the colour of optimism and friendliness. However, using yellow to influence people’s mood is a delicate game, because it has a very strong psychological impact and the smallest variation can have a dramatic effect. The right shade can lift our spirits and boost self-confidence – which could maybe explain why running when the sun is out can feel so great – but just a small slip the wrong way on the spectrum can result in a colour that gives rise to fear and anxiety. Encouraging self-confidence and personal growth is a huge part of any fitness programme, so anything that could lead to anxiety must be avoided.


Green is a calming colour. It symbolises balance, peace and rest. Psychologically, we associate the colour green with an abundance of water, which the caveman part of our brains links to an abundance of food, so it makes us feel safe on a primitive level. Interestingly, green strikes the eye in such a way that the brain doesn’t need to make any adjustments, so it is quite a restful colour. Logically, dimming the lights to a soothing green could compliment a relaxing cool down, helping to create the sensation of the body restoring and recharging itself.



Blue, like green, is a more calming colour, representing reflection, intelligence and serenity. Whereas red is a very physical colour, blue has a deep association with the mind and inner self, promoting mental clarity. The rhythmic, soothing motion of the rower is something we feel is complimented perfectly by the colour blue – so when you’re in a strength class, the lights will often be blue when you’re rowing. It can sometimes be perceived as a cold or unfriendly colour, but that hasn’t stopped it from being consistently chosen as the world’s favourite colour.


As the last visible wavelength before the ultra-violet ray, purple hues have a link to the cosmos and as such encourages deeper thought and introspection. Although clearly useful for yoga, it might not always work for high-energy fitness classes, where we want the focus to be on working hard – it’s quite hard to focus on a set of burpees if you’re also contemplating your innermost thoughts.



Using white in a fitness setting communicates clarity, simplicity and purity. Used in conjunction with other colours like green or blue, it can be really effective in promoting a feeling of self-worth and nurturing. However, it should never be used on its own, as this will risk creating an impression of sterility and unfriendliness.


Amazing, right?! Who knew that something so simple as the colour of lighting could have such a profound impact on our psychology and the way that we train. We’d love to know your thoughts about this – let us know if you’ve noticed the way that colours impact your training!


Look forward to seeing you in the studio soon (book here)!


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