We all know that exercising makes us feel happier thanks to those wonderful chemicals known as endorphins that running around and lifting weights lets loose in our heads. But what other psychological effects does exercise have?
Well that depends on whether we’re exercising indoors or out, says professor Thomas Plante at Santa Clara University. Studies he’s conducted over two decades has shown him that training indoors is best if we’re looking for a more calming type of exercise whereas if we want to feel energized then it’s best to head outdoors with friends to a park or woodland area. At Overland Park Boot Camp we’re a fan of both types.
Professor Plante reckons people who exercise outdoors with friends are more stimulated by what’s around them, including their exercise companions, who they can chat with. And this makes it more enjoyable for them.
He went on to look at the difference between exercising with a friend and doing it with an iPod. In this case, he said, there wasn’t any difference as both were deemed fun.
He did find a difference, however, using virtual reality headsets. Those who wore headsets while on a treadmill or exercise bike at the gym found it more enjoyable than those who just stared at the wall the whole time (seems like a bit of a no brainer to us here at Overland Park Boot Camp!).
Meanwhile, we like the next piece of research, this time by Harvard professor Ellen Langer. She found that people became healthier when they thought about what they were doing activity-wise. For instance, once hotel chambermaids and porters realised how many calories they were burning up in the line of their everyday work, they became more conscious of their health, showing lower blood pressure and body mass index over a period of four weeks.
“People are mindless with respect to most other exertion,” she said. “People see themselves when they’re eating. They don’t pay attention to the amount of calories burned standing there and stirring. I think this study reveals that we potentially have far more control over our psychological and physical functioning than most of us realize.”
What professor Langer is saying that we probably get in more exercise than we think. Next time you climb the stairs to your doctor’s office or carry those heavy bags of groceries back from the supermarket, remember to count them in your daily exercise routine. The good news is you may not be as big a couch potato as you fear!
You can find out more about exercising with others at Overland Park Boot Camp.