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It might sound too good to be true, but scientists have shown that believing yourself to be in shape will give you major health benefits.

A groundbreaking new study published in the journal Health Psychology involving 60,000 people, found that participants who considered themselves less active than other people were a whopping 71 per cent more likely to die within 21 years. Even if they were actually quite physically fit! It was the perception of under-exercising that seemed bad for overall health.

In contrast, people who had the belief that they were fit – even if they weren’t, and taking into consideration factors such as actual fitness, chronic illness and age – had a much lower likelihood of suffering ill-health.


What this study demonstrates is that our mental and emotional state influences our body. Feeling that you are doing worse than your peers and worrying about your health may make you feel stressed and depressed, which in turn may impact your health.

But the most exciting point of this study is that there is a potential healing power to our beliefs about ourselves – otherwise known as the placebo effect. We’ve all heard of it in terms of taking tablets, but apparently it works for fitness as well!

Our self-perception can also act as a motivator: someone who thinks they are active becomes encouraged and committed to act on this “fit and healthy” persona, wanting to improve this perceived advantage.


Of course, this doesn’t mean that actual physical exercise isn’t important. Activity comes with massive health benefits. But how you perceive your efforts at the gym matters.

Comparing yourself to others, feeling stressed and worrying about your progress, body shape and diet, will undermine your work. Instead, celebrating small steps praising your own efforts will amplify the power of your work.  

So when you exercise, remember that it’s not only good for you, but you should feel good about it! 

the author

Kath Webb

Kath is a contributing writer for Hussle. Football, running, weight training, yoga and walking are her forte, along with cooking tasty, nutritious food - with a regular batch of cake chucked in.