Wednesday, February 21, 2007

You'd better believe it!

I came inside this morning after a three-mile run -- I'm still taking it slow and easy after three months on the shelf with a bum knee -- and opened a Web article I saved the other day.

It reported on a study that found that people who believed that they were getting a good workout experienced greater benefits from their exercise than those who do the same work but don't think about the benefits.

That's right: Same exercise, different benefits. Those who believed showed improvement in weight loss, blood pressure and body fat.

Is it really all in our heads?

"These results support the idea that the benefits of exercise may involve a placebo effect," stated the Reuters article posted on the MSNBC web site.

The article continued: "Hotel cleaners who were told that their work of cleaning roughly 15 rooms each day was enough physical activity to maintain a healthy lifestyle were more trim and fit four weeks later than their peers who weren't given this message, Dr. Ellen Langer and her student Alia J. Crum report in the February issue of Psychological Science."

Now, if only we can figure out a way to convince ourselves that we are engaging in beneficial exercise -- even when we're not -- but nonetheless experience the benefits. Maybe I could keep the workout at three miles, instead of my pre-injury average of four or five. That could mean a little more snooze time for yours truly. I believe!


Kate said...

Hi Dad,

Great to hear you're running again!

If I had to guess, I'd say that those people told they were getting a good workout ended up eating healthier and doing other things that might lead to being more trim and fit than the control group. It would have been interesting to track what those groups ended up eating.

I think people tend to try to live like their mental image of themselves. Is someone more likely to choose to eat an apple or a couple of oreos based on if they've been working out or not? I suspect yes, very often their activity will affect their choice, but it will be opposite of what it "should" be: Working out a lot? eat the apple. Couch potato? mmm, oreos.

I'm not sure if studies support this idea, but I think it's a logical hypothesis based on the study you mentioned.

Brian Cooper said...

Generally, I agree. I believe that people who exercise are more likely to make good choices re nutrition. However, I also have occasions when I rationalize those Oreos as my "reward" for working out.