Harness the power of your mind for greater health and happiness
Burn belly fat
Got a to-do list as long as your arm? Simply reframe it as part of your training plan and you’ll get leaner. That’s because classifying your chores and errands as exercise burns fat, without you making any other lifestyle changes, according to research from Harvard University. It found that when a group of hotel housekeeping staff were told that their daily tasks counted as exercise they not only lost weight, but also had lower blood pressure and a reduced body-fat percentage after just four weeks. A second group of housekeeps, who weren’t told their work counted as exercise, saw no positive changes whatsoever.
Build stronger muscles
Spend your rest between sets scrolling Instagram? Put down your phone and focus on the body you want instead. Visualising yourself with bigger and stronger muscles can make that vision a reality, in as little as six weeks, according to a study from the French Centre of Research and Innovation in Sport. Subjects were split into two groups who spent six weeks following identical exercise programmes of the bench press and leg press, with one group instructed to use their rest periods between sets visualising themselves lifting heavy weights. The other group received no instructions. At the end of the study the visualisation group could do more reps of a given weight, and lift heavier for a single rep than the control group.
Rev up recovery
It’s said laughter is the best medicine, unless you’ve cracked a rib. But for muscle aches and pains there’s little better than a good giggle, and there’s science to prove it. Research from the Loma Linda University in California found that laughing, and even the anticipation of having your sides split, reduces levels of the stress hormones cortisol and catecholamine, both of which slow down the recovery process if too high. The release of feel-good endorphins is to thank, not only speeding up recovery but making you feel happier and more relaxed too.
Last for longer
In the gym, that is. Simply telling yourself you’re not tired can be enough to help you dig deeper and keep going, even when you think you’ve nothing left in the tank. When researchers from the University of Cape Town examined the leg muscles of exhausted marathon runners they found plenty of energy-giving glycogen and ATP, suggesting that the finishers’ fatigue was mental, not physical. When you’re feeling fatigued recite a positive mantra for a minute or two, such as “I feel great” or “I am strong”, to keep on going.
Boost your immunity
Feel yourself coming down with the ‘flu? Imagining your white blood cells arming up for battle can actually improve your odds of defeating any foreign invader, according to a George Washington University study. Subjects who looked at positive imagery – such as little men with hammers relentlessly pounding cancer cells – all had increased levels of circulating white blood cells, as well as the hormone thymosin alpha-1, a powerful immune system weapon.