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Exercise will do more for you if you believe in it

Harold Mandel's picture
A young woman staying in shape

A new study has shown that people gain more from exercise if they believe the effects from it will be positive.


Exercise generally seems to have a great deal to offer to improve your physical well being and your sense of well being. It appears there is also a psychological component associated with how much benefit you will gain from exercise. Albert-Ludwigs-Universit├Ąt Freiburg reported believe it or not when people believe exercise will have a positive effect on them they are likely to benefit more from it.

There are greater benefits from exercise if you have a positive mindset about sports

It is well accepted that exercise is good for your overall health. However it's hard to believe that the belief that there will be a positive effect from exercise may actually be more significant than the exercise itself. Hendrik Mothes, who is a psychologist from the University of Freiburg's Department of Sport Science and his associates have done a study which demonstrates that there are greater psychological and neurophysiological benefits from exercise when test subjects begin with positive mindsets dealing with sports.

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It has been observed by the researchers that there can be positive and negative influences on the mindsets of subjects prior to when they actually exercise. Mohes says it's like a self-fulfilling prophecy that our belief in how much we will gain from exercise has a great effect on our general state of well-being. This study has been published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

Our mindset seems to have a placebo effect

There appears to be a placebo effect from our mindset during exercise. There was greater enjoyment of the exercise, more improved mood, and less anxiety in test subjects who believed physical activity would be associated with positive effects prior to their participation in this study. It seems there are long-term consequences from our beliefs and expectations on the motivation which we have to take part in sports. The idea of thinking positive has a great deal of impact in this regard.

Even after just a single bout of exercise there is an affect on psychological and neurophysiological benefits from our expectations. More positive expectations dealing with exercise were consistently associated with greater psychological benefits. The self-fulfilling nature of psychological and neurophysiological changes induced by exercise is compelling. Thinking positive about exercise may have a naturally positive influence on how much you gain from it.