New Weight-Loss Study Verifies the Validity of the Placebo Effect

Lindsey Metrus

We know from experience that our mind plays a huge role in our physicality. For example, our high school sports coaches taught us that that if we believed that we could run/swim/perform better, chances are we would. Your mind-set can truly make or break your results, which is why it should come as no surprise to many that the way you think is a key player in your fitness routine. However, we were stunned when we discovered a new Harvard study, featured on PopSugar, revealing that the way you think can affect your weight too.

In 2010, Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer wanted to test her hypothesis that exercise and health can be affected by the way you think. To do this, she split a group of 84 hotel maids from seven different hotels into two groups. The first group—the “informed group”—were told about the benefits of exercise and that their workload satisfied the CDC’s recommendation of at least 30 minutes of physical exercise daily. They were also told that exercise doesn’t have to be painful in order to be effective, as well as the average calories burned for certain work-related tasks like folding linens and vacuuming. The other group—the control group—were only told the benefits of exercise and the CDC recommendation. It wasn’t until the conclusion of the study that they were told about how housekeeping and exercise coincide.

The result? While the behavior of neither group changed, the informed group felt that they were getting significantly more exercise than they were prior to the study, and subsequently, their weight, BMI, waist-to-hip ratio, blood pressure, and body fat percentage all dropped. Crazy, right?

The power of placebo is absolutely mind-blowing; other studies have shown that people who take part in exercise programs that they think will improve their self-esteem have better results than those who don’t, which makes us want to start Googling self-esteem–boosting workouts right away. (Even if it is just placebo, it’s worth a shot, right?). Time to get our Zen on!

If you’re looking for a little pre-workout mindfulness prep, we recommend flipping through the pages of Mindfulness in Plain English ($9) by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana.

Calling all yogis and fitness buffs! What do you do to get yourself in the right mind-set for a workout? Please share your tips in the comments!

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