Knackered and have to go on? Tell yourself you feel great and your body will believe you, researchers have found. Alexa Tucker reports
Attention, gym dreaders: it really might be all about attitude. A recent study done by researchers from the University of Kent showed that physical fatigue could be combatted by positive self-talk when exercising.
The experiment had 24 young, fit men participate in fitness tests on stationary bikes, and indicators of their physical exertion were measured (like heart rate and facial muscle contractions, or grimaces.) The subjects were told to exert about 80 percent of their maximum effort until they felt they could no longer pedal. During the test, researchers asked the riders how they were feeling on a scale of zero to 10 several times.
The men were then split into two groups, one group who exercised normally for two weeks, and one group that was coached in “self-talk.” The group that was coached in self-talk picked four phrases that psychologists have found to be motivating, including “you’re doing well” and “feeling good,” and repeated these mantras to themselves while exercising for the next two weeks.
The men then underwent the same cycling test and were measured again. The group that had practiced positive self-talk pedaled longer and said the pedaling felt easier, while the riders in the control group essentially repeated the results from their original ride. The self-talk group did not have lower heart rates or fewer facial contortions, however; they simply felt it was easier. This shows that the physical exertion was the same, it was just more manageable.
Though positive thinking has long been used as a tool to continue exhausting physical activity, this is the first study that officially links self talk, either out loud or mentally, with a lower perceived exertion level. So even if you feel silly, it might be worth telling yourself you’re doing great–and you probably will be.
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