If you’re the type to come down on on yourself for skipping leg day or not getting sweaty enough in your hot yoga class, consider this a PSA from your friendly neighborhood health nut: According to a new study in Health Psychology, the way you think about how much you work out may have actual effects on your health.
The study used data taken from more than 60,000 adults surveyed during a 16-year period, and the findings offer up more evidence that being kind to yourself is actually important. The study researchers found that regardless of their actual level of physical activity, people who simply thought they were less healthy than those around them were 71 percent more likely to die sooner (even if they worked out the same amount as their counterparts).
“A lot of people think that exercise has to mean running or going to the gym, and they don’t give themselves credit for all the other activity they do.”
Now, that doesn’t mean that if you deem your recent half-marathon finish time unworthy when stacked against your BFF’s ultramarathon finish that you’re going to drop dead, but it does mean you should give yourself credit where it’s due.
“It can be easy to compare how much exercise we get with the people around us, as opposed to what’s recommended for everyone,” Octavia Zahrt, lead author and Stanford PhD student in organizational behavior, tells Health. “Plus, a lot of people think that exercise has to mean running or going to the gym, and they don’t give themselves credit for all the other activity they do—cleaning their house, walking to the store, carrying their kids, those sorts of things.”
According to the study, most people actually under-estimate how active they are. And if you feel like a slacker, your body may treat you as such (call it the fitness placebo effect). But those who are psyched about how much they’re working out may actually benefit from their good attitudes—just as much as they benefit from the actual physical activity.
So instead of focusing on how you didn’t make it to your lunchtime spin class, think about the 20 blocks you walked to work, or the half hour you spent running around town trying to get as much Trader Joe’s cauliflower rice as possible.
Giving yourself props could be the healthiest thing you do all day.
The way you think can affect your health. Read about the relationship between positivity and inflammation or how reminiscing about the good times can reduce your stress levels.
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