SS 224 – Using Your Mind To Improve Your Fitness

Episode 224 Show Notes

Grant and Heavey talk about the power of the mind. It’s amazing what great benefits mindset can have in improving performance, health, and just life in general! Listen in to find out how to actually harness it and be better.

[01:55] The Meat Allergy: Alpha-Gal Syndrome

Alpha-Gal syndrome is a condition that causes a severe allergic reaction when you eat red meat. It’s known to be caused by a certain tick that transmits a substance called alpha-gal into the body. A recent study showed that even if a tick hasn’t eaten on any mammal, you can still get it. It’s understood now that it’s the tick’s saliva that causes the reaction.

[05:13] The Power of the Mind

Heavey talks about a paper called Mindset-Matters: Exercise and The Placebo Effect. The placebo effect refers to any effect contributed to the mindset rather than a drug or remedy. It’s a widely accepted phenomenon, that’s why it’s standard practice within clinical trials to test for it.

A few examples of the placebo effect and practice include one meta-analysis of over 2,000 clinical drug trials and anti-depressant medications found that about 25% of responses were due to medication and 50% were due to placebo.

Another example is that the researchers took these individuals and exposed them to fake poison ivy. In response, people that were never exposed to poison ivy started developing rashes on their body.

In the extreme, one study was done where they administered anesthesia to people and gave them a fake knee operation. The respondents experienced reduced pain and swelling in their “healed” tendons and ligaments.

The placebo effect has been measured and has a very real impact on people.

[08:15] Perceived Health vs. Actual Health

It doesn’t have to just be medicines and procedures. The health decline of cancer patients often has more to do with negative expectations of the patients than the actual progression of the disease.

In a huge cohort of over 6,000 people, it was determined that perceived health was a better indicator of mortality than actual health. The elderly with a poor perception of their health were six times more likely to die than those with the perception that they have excellent health regardless of their actual health status.

[09:14] The Power of Perceived Exercise for Weight Loss

A group of researchers took it upon themselves to work with 84 housekeepers at a handful of hotels. They used housekeepers as their jobs are quite active and they move around all day. They’ve got exercise built into their daily work. They split them into two groups. One group was informed that the activity they’re getting from their work actually meets or exceeds the recommendations from the surgeon-general. They were provided examples of how their work was actual exercise and then they were told that exercise doesn’t have to be painful or hard for it to be good for you.

They were given all this information and a series of measurements were collected on them. The control group was not informed of any of the information. They simply collected the baseline measurements on this group and sent them on their way. They weren’t told anything about how their daily work is similar to exercise and some of the benefits that come along with what they’re doing in their job.

After a four-week period, both groups reported no change to the amount of exercise they were doing outside of work. They reported no difference in their nutrition, lifestyle, bad habits – all was the same before and after. However, the informed group reported a much higher level of perceived exercise. The intention of the researchers was to try to keep them from doing more exercise but to influence the way they think about exercise and make them feel as if they’re doing more exercise even though the amount of activity they’re doing stays fixed. The also did the same amount of work before and after.

As a result, the experimental group ended up losing two pounds while the control group didn’t lose any weight. Then, the informed group experienced a decrease in their blood pressure that was also not observed in the other group.

[13:50] Self-Esteem

Another study had 48 healthy adults go through a ten-week exercise program and half of them were led to believe that this program was specifically designed to improve psychological well-being. The other half were told that the emphasis was on the biological component which is getting fitter. Both groups ended up achieving the same improvements in their fitness. But those in the experimental group reported significantly greater improvements to their self-esteem by the end. There are ways in which the mindset you apply to any task can affect the outcome. We don’t fully understand any of it, but it’s compelling.

[18:30] The Power of the Mind: It’s Not Just Woo-Woo!

Therefore, it’s possible that you experience a greater benefit from what you’re doing if you have that mindset going into it. Heavey says it can’t hurt to have a positive attitude.

As with Heavey’s clients, Heavey tries to keep them positive and engaged in what they’re doing and looking at the small wins as they go so they will keep that positive intention with their training or nutrition.

[18:40] Dealing with Stress

This all circles back around to stress, which is one of this podcast’s main pillars. We create and/or develop a lot of stressors in life. As in any environment, our reaction to that thing is something within our control. It’s up to you how you experience these things. It’s entirely your decision if you want to be stressed out or not as long as you have the self-awareness to sit down and see the experience for what it is.

Moreover, Grant points out the training aspect to this where you can get acclimated to certain things and/or you can train your brain to process things differently.

[22:56] Exercising Your Mind

When you learn to exercise your mind, instead of getting angry and ruining your day, you recognize you’re angry. Then you could take a step back and say it did piss you off but it’s not going to ruin your day so you keep going.

[23:43] Basketball Free Throws

Grant cites basketball free throws where many basketball players can miss it because of the pressure they put on themselves, and they’re probably thinking about missing it, especially because everybody is watching you.

Ultimately, you don’t have to be tricked to get the benefit of using our mind for performance. If you believe in your strength and training, step to the bar with confidence, that bar might just feel a little lighter.


Mindset-Matters: Exercise and The Placebo Effect

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