How to Think Your Way to Better Health
March 03, 2014
Just about any exercise - even ping pong - can enhance health if you believe it does.

Just about any exercise – even ping pong – can enhance health if you believe it does.

To get the most out of your diet and exercise plan, you have to first believe in its efficacy and in your ability to improve as a result of it. The more you believe, the better the outcome. Doctors call this mysterious mind-body connection the “placebo effect.”

In 2008, Dr. Ellen Langer, a Harvard psychologist, found that she could make hotel maids more healthy just by telling them that their daily routines gave them sufficient exercise. When one group was told their daily cleaning routines counted as exercise and another was not, the informed group showed a 10% drop in blood pressure, an average of 2 lbs. in weight loss, and improvements in waist-to-hip ratios after just one month. The uninformed group showed no change. See the full study here.

What is the placebo effect? 

Placebo is defined as “a harmless pill, medicine, or procedure prescribed more for the psychological benefit to the patient than for any physiological effect.” The placebo effect is the undeniable improvement patients feel when given “fake” treatments.

Placebos seem to work best in reducing subjective symptoms like pain. A recent survey of US doctors found that about half of them regularly prescribe placebo treatments. While they don’t necessarily give patients fake medicine, they do prescribe dosages too small to achieve a clinically expected effect. This is considered ethical because in most cases, the patients see real improvements.

The placebo effect is so widespread and pronounced that the FDA requires that all medicines must out-perform the placebo effect. and many medications have a hard time beating it.

How to take advantage of the placebo effect:

It costs nothing and there’s ample evidence that it works, so why not improve the effectiveness of your workouts by just believing they, along with the rest of your lifestyle, do indeed improve your health?