Tuesday, May 01, 2007

90% Half Mental

Here is something to get librarians very excited as it shows the power of classification. If you classify cleaning as exercise, instead of drudgery, then it not only has an effect on the mind it also has physical implications and can cause o weight loss.

This is rather startling as I have always been a believer in the rather austere school of weight management, i.e. it is purely a matter of calories consumed against calories expended, with an underlying assumption that there is a fairly standard tariff for energy burning i.e. if you did a certain activity you would expend set amount of calories. But this does not seem to be totally the case.

Perhaps I should not been surprised because the power of the placebo effect is well known. This is a variation without pills or pseudo interventions where you do yourself good by thinking that you are doing yourself good.

I think it is important that it is not a conscious cause and effect but rather it is the subconscious effect of real belief that you are doing exercise. If you directly tried to think yourself thin I don't think it would work because there would always be a part of your brain that knew it was a bit artificial - and this would ruin the effect. However if you can see what you do in a new light everything changes

It is the same with running. I don't think I can just tell myself I am a better at running and then expect to see an improvement. However I do believe that if I followed a coach or training schedule I had faith in, then that placebo variant would kick-in. There would be the physiological effect of doing the exercise but it would be amplified by the belief I was doing the right thing.

I almost believe that any method works - as long as it provides a structure and an explanation so that there is also a rational explanation for what is happening. Almost from the beginning of time there have been arguments about training regimes, especially between those who believe in lots of mile and those who emphasise speed and intensity. There has never been any resolution because different approaches have been successful for different athletes. It will probably always be so because the most important thing is that the athlete believes that their training regime is right for them. In other words, if the mind is right the body will follow.

I always liked the famous Yogi Berra quote that "baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical". My variant for running is that it is 90% half mental.


beanz said...

mm - I wonder whether those who were told it was exercise actually put a bit more bounce and effort into it - and hence the benefits?

I guess you are right (you usually are) - plenty of people told me that I was mad to go out at 5.00am!

b-z said...

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womble said...

Of course, you're right! I think it's the case with most things, if you have positive thoughts then there is a positive outcome.

I've just started cycling to work again (~15 miles each way, two days a week). The trouble is, as far as I'm concerned it's transport not exercise! So it won't make me lose weight, will it?