The placebo effect is recognised and accepted by most of us. It shows the important part perception plays in the results achieved. When researchers are testing a new drug, for example, it's not uncommon for more than 30% of those using a placebo to lose the symptoms being tested. Even though a placebo may be regarded as medically ineffectual, belief and a sugar pill can be all that's required for more than 30% of the participants to experience a difference.The placebo effect can be a very powerful and helpful friend when it comes to living a longer, better life. You can program your brain to think about how your exercise and what you eat (not junk, of course) is improving your body. That's right! You can legitimately increase the results from your exercise and nutrition by actively thinking about the benefits.Harvard researchers studied over 80 hotel room cleaning attendants from 7 different hotels who cleaned an average of 15 rooms-per-day at about 25 minutes-per-room.The researchers set out to study the effects on the hotel attendants of making them aware of how beneficial the exercise they got while working was for their health, and to see if this increased the results that they actually received from the exercise. The question was, would telling them that their work was great exercise improve their health, lower their blood pressure, and help them to lose weight compared to the hotel attendants that didn't realise their work was 'exercise'?
The hotel attendants were split into two groups. The first group was informed about the benefits of exercise and told how many calories they were burning while doing their hotel cleaning work each day. They were specifically told how many calories activities such as changing sheets, vacuuming, and scrubbing bathrooms were burning each hour. (The researchers also gave the attendants a daily handout showing the number of calories being burnt doing each activity.) The second (control) group was simply informed of the benefits of exercise and were not told anything else.The only difference was that the one group was reminded how beneficial their work exercise was for their health and how many calories they were burning. Their minds were busy believing in the benefits of it. This group ended up losing a significant amount of weight, etc. The control group showed no improvements.A key message for all of us is to never underestimate how powerful our mind is. And for all participants in the ageing process, we need to make sure we're actively thinking about how our exercises and foods are helping us to live a longer, better life.