It is evident for many of us that exercise is more than just physiology: It gives adrenalin, energy and produces endorphines, which stimulates well-being and happiness. After working out we feel relaxed and energetic. But did you know that the way we think about our own ability to perform physical activity may play an important role for the level of physical activity? Moore and colleagues (2012) recently published a paper on the psychological parts of exercise and physical sef-esteem. They suggest that the experience of physical activity can not be explained only as a direct effect of the activity itself, but occurs through several indirect “sub-effects”. In a population of older people they found that both physical activity itself, as well as the belief that one is able to perform physical activity have independent effects on several aspects of self-worth and self-esteem.
However, the study is cross-sectional, which makesit impossible to say anything about causality – what comes first? The sample is not either representative, and physical activity data are self-reported. The authors therefore admit that this topic needs further investigation. Still, it is interesting that believing in own physical abilities seems to affect level of physical activity and other relevant aspects, such as physical strength, attractiveness, endurance and health. Can this be part of the reason for socioeconomic differences in the prevalence of obesity and physical activity performance? For old people who become inactive just because they are old? However, it is clear that physical activity has many other aspects than just the physical one.
Written by Linda Ernstsen, post doc at CERG