Studies have shown perception, when it comes to exertion during exercise, can influence long-term motivation and participation in an exercise program. In other words, if you think that exercise is hard, you are less likely to stick to it.
Researchers tested how expectations influence perceived exertion during exercise in study recently published in Plos One. They enrolled 78 participants into their study. The participants were asked to rate their athleticism and put on a compression shirt from a well-known sports brand. Then the participants were divided into two groups. Both groups were then shown a movie clip, which outlined the importance of exercise. The participants were told that the exercise they were about to engage in was optimized to maximize mental health and well-being according to scientific evidence. The only difference between the movie clips shown to the respective groups was the information given regarding the compression shirt. One group was told that the compression shirt supports heart function and breathing and could aid with cycling, while the other group was told that the compression shirt is merely there to reduce sweat, which could interfere with measurements. During the 30 minute exercise participants were asked to rate their perceived exertion.
The results indicated that those individuals rating themselves more athletic perceived exercise to be less strenuous, while those reporting to be non-athletic rated the 30 minute cycling session as strenuous. However, the non-athletic individuals who believed the compression shirt to be an aid for cycling, rated perceived exertion during exercise lower.
Therefore, mind is a powerful thing and it can work for or against you. Positive thinking will go a long way.
Nina Zisko, Researcher at CERG