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Believe It or Not: Exercise Does More Good If You Believe It Will

(Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg) Everyone knows exercise is supposed to be good for your health, but is the belief that exercise will have a positive effect more important for our well-being than the exercise itself? The psychologist Hendrik Mothes from the University of Freiburg's Department of Sport Science and his team have conducted a study demonstrating that test subjects derive more psychological as well as neurophysiological benefits from exercise if they already have positive mindsets about sports. Moreover, the team provided evidence that test subjects can be positively or negatively influenced in this regard before engaging in the exercise…
"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," sums up Mothes. The results provide evidence for a placebo effect during exercise: Test subjects who already believed the physical activity would have positive effects before participating in the study enjoyed the exercise more, improved their mood more, and reduced their anxiety more than less optimistic test subjects. In addition, the study revealed a neurophysiological difference between the test subjects: According to the measurements of brain activity, the participants with greater expectations before the beginning of the study and those who had seen a film about the health benefits of cycling beforehand were more relaxed on a neuronal level.
The results likely also apply to other endurance sports like jogging, swimming, or cross-country skiing, reports Mothes. 
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