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If you have a career that requires some physical labor, realize that you are getting some exercise and feel good about that. A new study shows that understanding the exercise benefits of your daily routine makes them even better.
Housework is Exercise
Researchers did a little experiment with some hotel housekeepers. They told some housekeepers about the exercise benefits of their job and gave them specific examples. After all, changing sheets, vacuuming, cleaning floors, etc. can be quite a workout. A second group of hotel housekeepers were not informed about their professions physical activity benefits.
After about 10 weeks, the researchers evaluated the physical health of the study participants. Those that were informed about exercise benefits had small but real improvements in body weight, BMI and blood pressure. This is different spin on the placebo effect – believing that something his helping actually makes it help more.
The Power of the Placebo Effect
Many studies before have demonstrated the power, positive and negative, of the placebo effect. For example, subjects exposed to fake poison ivy develop real rashes (negative effect) and subjects given fake knee surgeries report improvements in pain and have less swelling (positive effect). Data suggests that somewhere between 60-90% of all drug therapies rely, at least partly, on the placebo effect.
I know that some of you are thinking, ‘Why not just believe that watching TV while eating cheeseburgers and chocolate shakes are good for your health?’ Well, lying to yourself is not the point but if you can truly convince yourself of that, maybe you'll minimize the damage.
It all boils down to the power of your own beliefs to control your biology. Are you a ‘glass half empty’ or a ‘glass half full’ person?
Reacting to Information
This question is going to become very relevant in a few short years. Genotyping studies, which I have discussed in the past, will soon allow people to get all their genes analyzed and determine what diseases they are at risk for so that they can take measure to minimize the chances of developing them.
In fact, just this week, such a genotyping study identified four new genes that put women at increased risk for breast cancer. These types of studies are growing at an accelerated pace with the advent of recent technologies.
Some people will look at increased odds of developing a disease very stressfully, and with the negative placebo effect, actually increase their chances of getting sick. Others will interpret the information as gaining control and use the positive placebo effect to increase their odds of health.
We must understand that our attitudes have a big impact on our outcomes. I'm talking about health and the placebo effect in this context but you can apply that truth to many areas of your life.
Focus on the Positive
The take away point is to focus on your health successes and the good you are doing. Focus on how much you do eat and sleep well and get some good physical activity and use the placebo effect to your advantage. Try to minimize the small setbacks but don't stress about them too much and allow the negative placebo effect work against you.
The other important point is to find health habits that you enjoy so that you can boost the positive effects even more. Don't try and stick to a health routine that you dislike. Enroll in a Yoga or Tai Chi Class if you can't stand the typical gym style work out. Experiment with different foods until you find some healthy choices you enjoy. Don't force yourself to eat broccoli if you really don't like it.
The more you work on finding an enjoyable healthy lifestyle the more positive emotions you create around that lifestyle and the better the benefit.
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