People gain the greatest psychological and neurophysiological benefit when they really believe in exercise, new research finds.
A positive attitude towards sport and exercise is a self-fulling prophecy, explained the study’s first author Mr Hendrik Mothes:
“The results demonstrate that our belief in how much we will benefit from physical activity has a considerable effect on our well-being in the manner of a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
For the study 76 people exercised for 30 minutes on a stationary bicycle.
All saw one of two videos beforehand.
The first praised the positive effects of cycling, the second did not.
The results showed that people who already had positive views of exercise enjoyed the exercise more, had lower anxiety afterwards and better mood.
The video that was positive about cycling had the same effect.
The researchers also made recordings of the electrical activity in the brain
These revealed that those with positive expectations about exercise or who had seen the video were more relaxed on a neuronal level.
Mr Mothes said:
“Beliefs and expectations could possibly have long-term consequences, for instance on our motivation to engage in sports.
They can be a determining factor on whether we can rouse ourselves to go jogging again next time or decide instead to stay at home on the couch.”
Appreciate what you already do
Beliefs are a powerful thing: consider a 2007 study on 84 hotel attendants (Crum et al., 2007).
Some were encouraged to appreciate how much exercise they were already doing as part of their job.
The rest were told nothing.
Incredibly, the average weight of those encouraged to appreciate the exercise they already did reduced from 145.5 lbs to 143.72 lbs.
Over the same period the rest showed no significant change.
That’s like dropping a bag of sugar. In four weeks. With no additional exercise.
Now that’s the power of the mind-body link right there, measured in pounds and ounces.
The new study was published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine (Mothes et al., 2016).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Image credit: marcovdz