Before the study, one-third of the participants reported that they did not exercise at all, with the other two-thirds reporting that they did not exercise regularly. After four weeks, however, 80 percent of those who were told their work was good exercise reported regular exercise.
Most importantly, these participants lost an average of two pounds, lowered their blood pressure by 10 percent and showed some reduction in BMI and body fat. Fewer health improvements were seen in the group whose members were not informed that their jobs were good exercise.
“These results support the hypothesis that exercise affects health in part or in whole via the placebo effect,” wrote Dr. Alia Crum and Ellen J. Langer in Psychological Science.
The researchers also surveyed their participants to determine if they changed their diet during the study, thinking that some may have adopted a healthier lifestyle, but there was no change in general diet or exercise habits reported.
“Whether the change in physiological health was brought about directly or indirectly, it is clear that health is significantly affected by mind-set,” the researchers note.
Who knows? Next time you are running after your kids, washing your car or just walking through the local mall, if you think you are getting a good workout, you just may reap the benefits of one.