London: Find exercise too tiresome? It may all be in your head, say scientists who found that our expectations have a major influence on how strenuous we perceive sports to be.
Researchers from University of Freiburg in Germany found that how a person doing the sport feels about himself or herself played a big role in feeling strained.
Moreover, it can sometimes be smart to enlist help from supposedly useful sports products – if you believe in them, researchers said.
The team invited 78 people, including men and women between the ages 18 and 32. The participants were made to ride a stationary bicycle-ergometre for 30 minutes.
They were asked beforehand to say how athletic they thought they were. They were also asked to put on a compression shirt produced by a well-known sporting goods manufacturer.
During their exercise, researchers asked the participants every five minutes what level of strenuousness they were experiencing.
Right before the exercise, the participants were assigned to different groups and shown one of several short films that either stressed the positive health effects of the coming cycling activity, or dampened the expectations.
In some of the films, the compression shirts were praised as an additional help in cycling, while other films indicated that they would make the test persons’ sweating comparable.
“What the participants did not know was that we used these film clips with the aim of influencing their expectations of the coming cycling session,” said Hendrik Mothes, psychologist at University of Freiburg .
Researchers found that the training unit was less strenuous for the test persons when they started out with a positive attitude.
The more athletic the participants perceived themselves to be, the stronger this effect was, researchers said.
They also found that believing in the compression shirt helped. To the subjects who considered themselves athletic, it made no difference, however, for those who said they weren’t much good at sports, there was quite an effect.
“Merely the belief that the shirt would help, did help the ‘unsporty’ subjects to have a lower perception of strenuousness during the exercise,” Mothes said.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.