Trainers may benefit their clients by educating them on the many gains to be derived from their exercise efforts. People who believe that their physical activities will improve their health and fitness reap greater results from exercise than those who don’t believe that what they are doing is exercise, according to a study published in the February, 2007, issue of Psychological Science.
Harvard University researchers studied 84 housekeepers working at seven hotels. Investigators told workers at four of the hotels that their on-the-job exercise of cleaning rooms met or exceeded the U.S. Surgeon General’s activity recommendations for a healthy lifestyle. The remaining workers were not told anything. The study’s purpose was to determine whether the belief that exercise improves fitness would result in any fitness improvements.
To test the impact of positive expectations, investigators took measurements of all participants at baseline and again 4 weeks later. At the end of 4 weeks, approximately 80% of the women who had been told that their activities were exercise had lost weight, lowered their blood pressure, reduced their body fat, lowered their body mass index and shrunk the size of their waists in relation to their hips. In contrast, the women who had not been told that their work was exercise did not experience any significant changes.
“These results support the hypothesis that exercise affects health in part or in whole via the placebo effect,” suggested study authors Ellen Langer, MD, and Alia Crum. “Whether the change in physiological health was brought about directly or indirectly, it is clear that health is significantly affected by mindset.”