Essentially, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, say researchers from the University of Freiburg. If people believe that exercise will do them good, then it will; in fact, the belief will amplify any health benefits.
They tested the theory on 76 volunteers, aged between 18 and 32, who were either shown a positive or negative film about cycling before they worked out on a gym bike for 30 minutes afterwards.
Those with a positive feeling about the exercise had less anxiety and recorded more neuro-physiological benefits, too, at the end of the exercise session than did those who had been given negative messages.
The researchers reckon that similar effects could be seen across a wide range of exercises, such as jogging, swimming, and cross-country ski-ing.
“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,” said lead researcher Hendrik Mothes.