Posted on Aug 04, 2017, 8 a.m.
New research finds that simply thinking that you're not exercising enough can shorten your lifespan.
Simply thinking that you are not exercising enough can harm your health. A study examining respondents over a period of 21 years showed that believing that they were lagging behind in physical exercise resulted in a dramatic 71 percent increase in mortality risk.
Stanford University researchers assessed data from three national surveys of more than 61,000 American adults, which gave information on weight, whether one smoked, activity levels, and their assessment of whether they exercised at the same rate as peers of the same age.
One of the study’s lead authors, Alia Crum, said in an NPR interview that individuals who thought they were less active than their peers were more likely to die despite the status of their health, their body mass index, and other factors. Crum explained that the biggest phenomenon underlying this finding is a placebo effect. For instance, if you believe that you are getting a pain medication, that can activate endogenous opiates in the brain. The power of the mind should not be underestimated when it comes to our well-being.
Study co-author, Octavia Zahrt, a Stanford University Graduate School of Business doctoral candidate, stated in a press release that the feeling of being behind can zap the motivation to exercise over time.
She added that how often your friends work out and where you live can also affect the perception of how much exercise you are actually getting and whether that exercise is adequate for you.
Zahrt believes that if you live in an area where your peers are excessively fit, you might feel relatively inactive, even though the exercise may be sufficient. If you believe that the only real exercise is working out in the gym or running, you will likely overlook the exercise you get at work or at home when you clean, do many other chores and activities, or carry children around.
People need different amounts of exercise for their long-term health, so it is futile to do comparisons. In the attempt to pursue longevity and overall health, it is as important to adopt healthy thoughts as it is to adopt healthy behaviors.
"Perceived Physical Activity and Mortality: Evidence From Three Nationally Representative U.S. Samples," by Octavia H. Zahrt, BA, and Alia J. Crum, PhD, Stanford University. Health Psychology, published online, Thur., July 20, 2017