Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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The placebo effect makes exercise even more healthy

Physical exercise is psychologically healthy. It reduces fatigue and protects against work stress and burnout. According to German psychologists all of these effects are stronger the more you believe in them. So the placebo effect not only affects how medicines and supplements work, but also the health effects of exercise.

Mothes, a psychologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany got 76 healthy participants to cycle for half an hour. Before they did so Mothes found out about the participants' opinions on the effects of physical exercise. He asked for example to what extent they agreed with a statement like "If I exercise regularly, I will feel more comfortable".

Anxiety scores decreased more among the participants who had positive expectations of physical exercise [high habitual expectations] than the participants with negative expectations [low habitual expectations].

The placebo effect makes exercise even more healthy

The placebo effect makes exercise even more healthy

The participants with positive expectations felt fitter, more energetic and stronger after cycling. The positive feeling of vigour hardly increased at all among the participants with negative expectations.

Neurologists see more alpha waves in the brain after physical exercise, but also during meditation and daydreaming, and just before you fall asleep. More alpha activity is a sign of a more relaxed state, more creativity and less anxiety and rumination.

Mothes observed an increase in alpha activity in the brain in both groups after they had cycled. And you guessed it: the increase was bigger in the participants with positive expectations.

The placebo effect makes exercise even more healthy

The placebo effect makes exercise even more healthy

The more positive feelings the participants had about exercise, the more pleasurable they found the half hour of cycling. But that's unlikely to surprise you.

"The results demonstrate that our belief in how much we will benefit from physical activity has a considerable effect on our well-being in the manner of a self-fulfilling prophecy," said Mothes in a press release. [ August 11, 2016]

"Beliefs and expectations could possibly have long-term consequences, for instance on our motivation to engage in sports. They can be a determining factor on whether we can rouse ourselves to go jogging again next time or decide instead to stay at home on the couch."

J Behav Med. 2017 Apr;40(2):293-306.

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Placebo Effect

Outdoor workouts motivate better than indoor workouts
If you think you should start training but you're not sure whether you'll manage to keep it up, if at all possible go and train outdoors.

Training together is less painful
Researchers at the University of Oxford came to this conclusion after doing an experiment with 12 rowers.

Swearing reduces pain
Are you writhing in pain, but still have a few reps to go before the end of your set? Or are you dead set on making that final sprint as fast as possible?