Exercise helps if you believe

“Self-fulfilling prophecy” and the “placebo effect” are aspects of the same continuum. Both of these phenomena tap into the notion that if you believe something will happen then you increase the likelihood of it actually happening. It might sound a bit metaphysical but it is actually just the reality of the power of your mind and it has been illustrated again in a new study showing that your beliefs about exercise influence how exercise will impact you.

The study involved subjects aged 18 to 32 who were asked to exercise for 30 minutes on a stationary bike. Before exercising the subjects were separated into groups, each group watching one of several short films that either promoted the positive health effects of bike riding or did not. On top of this the researchers also asked the subjects whether they already believed in the positive effects of exercise before the study began. The subjects also had their brain activity measured using and EEG (electroencephalogram).

The subjects showed that subjects who already believed in the positive effects of physical activity before exercise enjoyed the exercise more, improved their mood more and had greater reductions in anxiety.

In addition to the mood effects there were also neurophysiological effects.

The EEG results showed that both those who had seen the positive film and those who had prior positive beliefs about exercise showed more “relaxed” neuronal patterns after the exercise.

Self-fulfilling prophecy or placebo effect, it really doesn’t matter; the extent to which you benefit from exercise is impacted by how much you believe you will benefit.

Source: Journal of Behavioural Medicine

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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