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PLoS One. 2017 Jun 29;12(6):e0180434. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0180434. eCollection 2017.

Do placebo expectations influence perceived exertion during physical exercise?

Author information

1
Department of Sports Science, University of Freiburg, Schwarzwaldstrasse 175, Freiburg, Germany.
2
Bernstein Center Freiburg, University of Freiburg, Hansastrasse 9a, Freiburg, Germany.
3
Department of Sport, Exercise and Health, University of Basel, Birsstrasse 320 B, Basel, Switzerland.

Abstract

This study investigates the role of placebo expectations in individuals' perception of exertion during acute physical exercise. Building upon findings from placebo and marketing research, we examined how perceived exertion is affected by expectations regarding a) the effects of exercise and b) the effects of the exercise product worn during the exercise. We also investigated whether these effects are moderated by physical self-concept. Seventy-eight participants conducted a moderate 30 min cycling exercise on an ergometer, with perceived exertion (RPE) measured every 5 minutes. Beforehand, each participant was randomly assigned to 1 of 4 conditions and watched a corresponding film clip presenting "scientific evidence" that the exercise would or would not result in health benefits and that the exercise product they were wearing (compression garment) would additionally enhance exercise benefits or would only be worn for control purposes. Participants' physical self-concept was assessed via questionnaire. Results partially demonstrated that participants with more positive expectations experienced reduced perceived exertion during the exercise. Furthermore, our results indicate a moderator effect of physical self-concept: Individuals with a high physical self-concept benefited (in terms of reduced perceived exertion levels) in particular from an induction of generally positive expectations. In contrast, individuals with a low physical self-concept benefited when positive expectations were related to the exercise product they were wearing. In sum, these results suggest that placebo expectations may be a further, previously neglected class of psychological factors that influence the perception of exertion.

PMID:
28662168
PMCID:
PMC5491246
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0180434
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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