I read awhile back about a study of a group of women who worked as hotel maids. The women all said they either didn’t work out regularly or did no exercise at all. Researchers tested the women’s fitness, and as the women themselves had reported, found they all had the typical poor health of people who don’t exercise.
Then the women were divided into two groups, with each group carefully matched. The women in one group were told that pushing vacuum cleaners, scrubbing tubs, making beds, and all the other things hotel maids do was more activity than the half-hour of exercise a day that the surgeon general recommends. They even gave them exact numbers of how many calories they burned doing specific tasks, and as a reminder posted those details in the maids’ lounges where they worked.
The women in the second group weren’t told their work was the equivalent of an exercise program, and they weren’t provided with charts showing how many calories they burned as they worked.
After thirty days, the researchers went back and found that women in the group who’d been told they were getting sufficient exercise had on average lost two pounds. They had also dropped ten points in their systolic blood pressure. All were “significantly healthier,”
while the women in the control group hadn’t changed at all. The women who believed they got plenty of exercise got healthier. The women who believed they didn’t get enough exercise stayed unhealthy.
There are a number of psychoneuroimmunological explanations for what happened, but they all boil down to two things: 1) what we believe is what we create; and 2) we’re all a lot better than we think we are.