Can just thinking you are getting a good workout make you healthier? The results of a new study suggest the secret to feeling better about exercising is believing that it is helping you.
Researchers have found that hotel room attendants who were told they were getting a good workout from their daily routine of cleaning rooms were in better health a few weeks later than those who weren't told that.
Though there is documented evidence of a placebo effect in people taking fake pills, this study is the first to show that a placebo effect may exist in the world of exercise.
For the study, researchers from Harvard University recruited 84 female room attendants from seven hotels. In four of these hotels, the workers were given an information session, telling them that the amount of exercise they got while at work met or exceeded government recommendations. Those workers from the three other hotels were not given this information. All of the participants had their blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and other standard measures of health taken.
Before the study, one-third of the participants reported that they did not exercise at all, with the other two-thirds reporting that they did not exercise regularly. After four weeks, however, 80 percent of those who were told their work was good exercise reported regular exercise.
Most importantly, these participants lost an average of two pounds, lowered their blood pressure by 10 percent and showed some reduction in BMI and body fat. Fewer health improvements were seen in the group whose members were not informed that their jobs were good exercise.
The researchers also surveyed their participants to determine if they changed their diet during the study, thinking that some may have adopted a healthier lifestyle, but there was no change in general diet or exercise habits reported.
"Whether the change in physiological health was brought about directly or indirectly, it is clear that health is significantly affected by mind-set," the researchers note.
Who knows? Next time you are running after your kids, washing your car or just walking through the local mall, if you think you are getting a good workout, you just may reap the benefits of one.