As our New Year’s resolutions commitments takes a back seat in our daily lives, and our exercising slows down, I discovered a study published in the February 2007 issue of Psychological Science that may help us to reap the benefits of exercise through our daily routine. Harvard University psychologist Ellen Langer and her student Alia Crum determined that many of the benefits of exercise are caused by the way we think about exercising.

Recommending exercise is a touted lifestyle habit that is touted to reduce many risk factors for chronic disease development.  The US Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of daily exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

While daily exercising is challenging for people with desk jobs, other jobs are physical, such as  a hotel housekeeper. On average, they clean 15 rooms every day, each taking 20 to 30 minutes to complete. According to the study, the housekeepers might not consider their job related physical activities  job as exercise, but if their perception changed, and  that they were aware of the exercise they are getting, then their health should improve. 

The study included 84 female housekeepers from seven hotels. Women in 4 hotels were told that their regular work was enough exercise for them to meet the recommended requirements for a healthy, active lifestyle.  While the women in the other three hotels weren’t told anything.

To determine if the mind plays a role in the benefits of exercise, the researchers investigated whether subjects’ mind-set (in this case, their perceived levels of exercise) could improve and inhibit the health benefits of exercise independent of any actual exercise.

A month later, the researchers returned to assess any changes in the women’s health. They found that the women in the informed group had lost 2 pounds, experienced a 10 per cent reduction of their  blood pressure, and were significantly healthier as determined  by body-fat percentage, body mass index, and waist-to-hip ratio.  Also, these health changes are particularly remarkable given that they occurred within a month and were significantly higher than those experienced by the uninformed control group.

Dr. Langer wrote, “Whether the change in physiological health was brought about directly or indirectly, it is clear that health is significantly affected by mind-set.” This research shows the moderating role of mind-set and its ability to enhance health, which may have particular relevance for treating diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

This is a pretty amazing finding, in my opinion , and complements other studies that have found that athletes benefit from imagining participating in their sport, their muscles are actually stimulated  as if they were physically involved in the sport.

Our minds are amazingly remarkable and changes our physiology  remarkable.