Let’s talk about . . . our mind-set when it comes to fitness.
Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported on a Stanford University study that shows a fascinating link between how much we think we exercise . . . and how we feel about ourselves — which, of course, has implications for our physical health. (You can click this link to read the Washington Post article; I’ve gift-shared the article, so the paywall should be removed.)
In the study, researchers measured participant activity with trackers (like FitBits) to measure steps — but not all the trackers were providing accurate data to the participants. Some of the trackers showed higher step counts than the participants were actually taking, while others showed lower-than-actual step counts. There was also a control group whose trackers showed actual numbers. At the end of the study, the researchers discovered that the participants who perceived that they performing at or better than expected (whether by boosted or accurate step counts) reported better moods, higher self-esteem, and the incorporation of healthier habits into their lives. Measures of their physical wellness had also improved (resting heart rate, for example). By contrast, the participants who’d been “tricked” into thinking they were not getting as much exercise reported darker moods, lower self-esteem, and smaller increases in physical health indicators. These results are significant — because all of the participants were actually getting the same amount of exercise!
“The study shows that our mind-sets about our exercise habits ‘can change our motivation and goals,’ even if those mind-sets don’t reflect reality, said Alia Crum, an associate professor of psychology and director of the Mind & Body Lab at Stanford University and the senior author of the new study. ‘They can even change us physically.'”
— Washington Post
This new study supports findings from an earlier study of hotel workers. In this study (also from the Mind & Body Lab at Stanford), a group of female hotel room attendants considered themselves inactive and expressed regret that they weren’t getting enough exercise. After researchers helped them see how much activity they were actually getting while they worked, the hotel room attendants all experienced significant gains in physical health markers.
It turns out that . . . “our mind-sets about our exercise and health can become self-fulfilling. If we believe we are too inactive for our own good, our health and well-being can suffer, no matter how active we actually are. If, on the other hand, we begin to think of ourselves as active people — who exercise when we change the sheets or walk down the hall — our moods, health and even our fitness can rise.”
— Octavia Hedwig Zahrt, PhD, as quoted in The Washington Post
What does this mean for us, and what can we do to enhance our own mind-set about exercise?
That’s my challenge to you this month . . .
Discover how active you really are!
Because your mind-set matters! If you think you are active enough, you will likely make other healthy lifestyle choices – and reap healthful, physical benefits. But if you don’t think you are active enough, well. You likely . . . won’t.
Here’s what I challenge you to do: For the next week, keep track of your exercise and activity. As in . . . write it down. Include your formal exercising, of course, but also include other “life activities” you engage in that “count” as activity . . . vacuuming, for example. Or lugging laundry. Working in your garden. Changing beds. Cleaning a closet. If you have a tracker, use it to keep track of your steps or the minutes you exercise — anything to help you get a good sense of your actual activity level.
And then . . . contemplate your results. There are no right or wrong answers. Just use your results to think about this: Does it feel like you’re active enough to age the way you want to, to improve your health, to help you avoid disease, to keep yourself mobile and happy?
If the answer is YES, then celebrate. Feel good about your efforts. Maintain a positive mind-set about your fitness level — and keep up the good work! If the answer is NO, then figure out how you might be able to add a little more activity – and what kind – to your days.
See what happens!
2023 Monthly Fitness Challenges
Looking for Monthly Fitness Challenges from 2021-2022? I’ve moved them! Now you can find them in the Field Notes section of the blog (just click on Field Notes in the top menu) and look for Monthly Fitness Challenges 2021-2022.