The mind is a powerful thing, and that just shows in the results of a newly published paper about perceived physical activity. According to the researchers' findings, people who believe that they are more active than they actually are, are more likely to live longer compared to active people who believe that they aren't active enough.

Mind Over Matter

Perhaps you've heard of the phrase "mind over matter" before, which has been used in the past to pertain to the power of the mind despite physical constraints. Now a new study reveals that that phrase could actually be applicable when it comes to physical health.

A Stanford University research published in the journal Health Psychology reviewed the effects of personal perception regarding levels of physical activity to mortality rates in the population level. Researchers gathered their figures from the 1990 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the 1999-2002 as well as the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the National Death Index.

In the NHIS survey, the respondents were asked to rate whether they believed they were more or less physically active compared to other people their age, while the NHANES survey determined the self-reported "actual activity levels." A 21-year mortality follow-up then measured any participant death between the original review date and Dec. 31, 2011.

Researchers found that the participants who claimed to be not as physically active as their peers were 71 percent more likely to have died between the initial survey and the follow-up than those who perceived themselves as more active even if their actual physical activity did not match their perception.

The results remained even after putting actual activity levels as well as other covariates into consideration.

Perceived Physical Activity

The results of the study show that while actual physical activity is an important part of keeping the body healthy, perceived physical activity is also another important variable that must be significantly considered.

That's not saying that actual physical activity is irrelevant, as it remains to have a crucial role in health and mortality. However, along with the growing appreciation for the power of perception in prescribing medication and evaluating medical procedures, they believe that their results show the need for appreciating the power of perception in promoting behavior change.

Further, they explain that health cannot simply be attributed to a single factor but is something that must be discussed as a whole.

"Most people know that not exercising enough is bad for your health, but most people do not know that thinking you are not exercising enough can also harm your health," said Octavio Zahrt of Stanford University Graduate School of Business, coauthor of the study.

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