Perception Of Exercise Determines Health
New research has revealed a connection between people’s beliefs and their health: If they are too negative about their physical activity, they may “think themselves unfit.”According to a BBC story, scientists at Stanford University looked at mortality data for 61,000 adults.
For 21 years, dozens of measures were taken, including how much people exercised and, crucially, how much exercise they thought they did compared with others their age, during which time some of the participants had died from illnesses.
Analyzing the various factors that might have contributed to the participants’ health, the researchers discovered something extraordinary. People who thought they weren’t doing as much exercise as their peers died younger than those who thought they did more, even when the actual amount of exercise they did was the same. This effect remained even when they took into account the participants’ health status and hazardous factors such as smoking.
Exercise does of course add to your average life expectancy, but this study suggests that perceptions of exercise make a difference, too. The study’s author Octavia Zahrt from Stanford University said personal experience prompted the research. When she moved to graduate school in California she found herself surrounded by people dressed in their gym kit, who always seemed to be on their way to or from workouts. In London, where she had lived earlier, she thought she did enough exercise.
However, in her new environment, she thought others did more and were fitter. Zahrt found that the mortality risk was up to 71 percent greater for people who perceive themselves as being less active than their peers, compared with those who thought they did more exercise than everyone else.