Do you feel like compared to other people you’re not going to the gym enough? If so, you might want to improve your mindset – even more than your exercise regime. Simply having guilt and insecurity about your level of fitness can be bad your health!
Researchers at Stanford University (Octavia Zahrt and Alia Crum) – who discovered that study participants who perceived themselves as “less active” than their friends tended to live shorter lives – even if they were still getting a nice amount of exercise – relatively equal to their friends.
In 2007 Alia Crum explored a fascinating study on hotel attendants. “These women were getting lots of exercise, but when we asked them they didn’t have the mindset that their work was good exercise,” Crum says.
Crum then gave a presentation to some of the hotel staff – explaining that all their heavy lifting and walking – was healthy exercise. After a month, these folks showed improvements in blood pressure and body fat.
Crum then teamed up with Zahrt for more research on exercise mindset.
The Cliff Notes version
The study examined more than 61,000 American adults – using data from 3 national health surveys – looking at their physical activity, health, and personal background.
Crum and Zahrt focused in on one big question: “Would you say that, compared with others your age, you are physically more active, less active or equally active?”
They viewed death records from 21 years after the surveys were conducted. (Note: They controlled for factors like physical activity, age, body mass index and chronic illness.)
Individuals who believed they were less active than others were up to 71% more likely to die in the follow-up period than people who thought
they were more active than their peers.
Shockingly, this mortality risk applied to people who were roughly the same in every way as their peers – including how much they actually exercised.
The researcher’s explanation
The Placebo effect kicked in! Those who believed they were getting enough exercise wound up experiencing greater physiological benefits.
Crum explains, “The belief you’re getting a pain medication can activate endogenous opiates in the brain. Similarly, the underlying dread of not exercising enough is a powerful frame of mind that can harm health.” Perceptions can affect motivation.
Zahrt explains, ”People who think they are less active can be discouraged by that perception, and they might stop exercising and become less active over time.”
Zahrt believes that perhaps a subsequent drop in real exercise might have influenced some of the negative health outcomes – although she tried to control for similarities in each exercise for her study.
Your assignment: Don’t use comparison or scare tactics to motivate yourself to go to the gym. Inspire yourself with a positive mindset.
The above is an excerpt from the bestselling longevity, “Life is Long: 50+ways to live a little closer to forever,” by Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon.com.