Emotional Health

On the Bright Side: Exercise—It Takes Only a Minute (Literally) to Improve Fitness

And this can be added to the everyday activities you do already which involve moving around. It turns out that thinking of your movements as exercise, contrary to NPAP’s recommendations, may be a good idea.  A fascinating 2007 study by two researchers from Harvard, Alia Crum and Ellen Langer, titled “Mindset Matters: exercise and the placebo effect”  demonstrated how the “placebo effect” may work when it comes to exercise. The authors define “the placebo effect (as an) . . . effect that is not attributed to an actual pharmaceutical drug or remedy, but rather is attributed to the individual’s mind-set (mindless beliefs and expectations).”

Crum and Langer studied groups of hotel employees working as maids. One group was told that performing their jobs amounted to considerable exercise, an amount that met the Surgeon General’s recommendations for physical activity.  Group two were told nothing, and both were followed for four weeks to make sure their levels of activity were similar.

At the end of the experiment, however, the groups were no longer “matching.” The authors found, “the informed group perceived themselves to be getting significantly more exercise than before. As a result, compared with the control group, they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index.” In other words, just thinking that the work they did counted as exercise caused these workers to lose weight.

It’s not hard to imagine how these results could translate into your everyday life. If you think of your dog-walking as legitimate “exercise” that may help you lose or maintain your weight, rather than making it more onerous, it may be seen as something even more worthwhile, since you are deriving benefits along with your dog. Housework can become not just a chore but a workout, and if somewhere in there you throw in just one minute of high-intensity activity, you could be well on your way to fitness.

While these changes may not help you win a marathon or lose a dress size, they will certainly help, and meanwhile you can have the peace of mind of knowing you are genuinely doing something about your health with truly minimal effort. It’s hard to say you can’t fit this into your schedule. Meanwhile, you can use the extra time to catch up on your sleep.

RELATED: Strength Training Exercises to Get Stronger at Any Age

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  • Diane May 9, 2016 at 9:32 am

    This review of new ways to get some benefit of exercise is very heartening. Something is better than nothing!