Did you know that people who consciously believe that exercise is good for them actually experience more mental and physical health benefits?
German researchers discovered that people who were convinced of the benefits of cycling actually enjoyed the exercise much more and were far more relaxed than others. Those with lower expectations experienced far fewer benefits!
To prove this, psychologists from the University of Freiburg in Germany tested 76 individuals aged 18-32 during 30-minute biking sessions. Each participant was interviewed before the session to find out how much they thought they would benefit from the exercise, and a post-workout questionnaire was also given to rate the mood and wellbeing before and after cycling.
Using an electroencephalogram (EEG) test, the brain activity of each participant was also closely monitored by the team.
Participants who were completely convinced that the exercise would have a positive effect on their mental and physical health were found to have elevated moods, reduced anxiety levels, lower blood pressure, and better health than their cynical counterparts.
The EEG also revealed that the cynics were less relaxed than those who had high expectations for their cycling session.
Does that mean that belief alone equates to health?
The study showed that mental predisposition played a vital role in the enjoyment of exercise and overall health benefits, purely because stress and negativity have such a damaging effect on wellbeing.
Some participants watched a short film before the exercise, which showed and praised the positive health benefits of cycling. These participants were found to experience closely related health benefits to those who simply intuitively believed in them, which shows that conscious belief is the most critical factor in maximizing the health benefits of exercise.
Stress and negativity can increase blood pressure, fatigue adrenal glands, reduce oxygen intake during exercise, and lead to a much lower level of health, even though the best intentions have been called into action. Exercise alone cannot result in total wellbeing: a healthy diet and a healthy mind are also part of achieving it.
Hendrik Mothes, the lead researcher of the study, says: “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.”
He added that while only cycling was tested, other endurance sports such as swimming, jogging, and even cross-country skiing would likely show the same results, with more researche planned for the future.
So far, the findings serve as an excellent reminder to increase the belief in the health benefits of your chosen activity, even if it’s just to maximize the enjoyment of it!