Seeing isn’t always believing.
There’s some serious merit to the power of your mind, especially when it comes to exercise. In fact, simply believing working out will have a positive impact on your life and well being might even be better for you than the exercise itself, according to new research.
In the study, published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, researchers had 76 men and women between the ages 18 and 32 hop on a bicycle ergometer for 30 minutes. But first, the men and women were separated into different groups and shown one of several short films that either praised the positive effects of cycling on health or not, asked whether they believed in the benefits of physical activity, and told to fill out questionnaires about their well being and mood before and after exercise. Lastly, the researchers measured the participants’ brain activity with an EEG.
Participants who believed in the benefits of exercise experienced greater enjoyment, better mood, and reduced anxiety.
“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,” study author Hendrik Mothes said in a press release. “Test subjects who already believed the physical activity would have positive effects before participating in the study enjoyed the exercise more, improved their mood more, and reduced their anxiety more than less optimistic test subjects.”
It’s not exclusive to cycling either. The researchers believe this rings true for other endurance sports like jogging, swimming, or cross-country skiing, the researchers say.
Bottom line: You won’t gain more muscle or drop fat any faster, but you will experience more psychological benefits from exercise if you have a positive outlook on sports. What’s more, you can reap the benefits of stronger workout motivation.
“Beliefs and expectations could possibly have long-term consequences…[and] 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,” Mothes adds.