PJ's Fitness Blog

A blog about a fitter you. Come find out what is on the cutting edge of fitness science and be a part of the ongoing conversation.

Givers are Stronger

Tis the season to give indeed, but did you know that this act can also help your workout? Scientists have discovered that your endurance will increase about 20%, right after doing something nice for someone.

Scientists looked at whether doing good deeds affects willpower and physical endurance. Volunteers were given a dollar and told to keep it or donate it to charity. The decision made, they were asked to hold a weight for as long as they could. To the surprise of the Harvard University researchers, those who had done a good deed were able to bear the load for almost ten seconds longer than the others.

In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. The altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.” This is why I tell competitive stairclimb racers that if they are being passed in the stairwell, they should pat the person on the back who is passing them and say things like, “Great job!”  or “Strong work!” It helps the person passing them, but it helps the person doing the encouraging even more.

The same can be said for when the faster climber is doing the passing. I always encourage those I pass and give them a pat on the back too. It may seem like an energy waste to talk to the slower/faster climber and pat them on the back, but any energy that might have been lost in the breath spent on them and the energy in the pat is more than made up for with the chemical changes in the brain that will help performance. Plus, it’s just good sportsmanship and improves the experience for everyone.

Since the brain doesn’t know the difference between fantasy and reality, even imagining doing something nice for someone will help make you stronger and boost your endurance. The act itself is of course the best way to get the “helpers high” but if you are alone and in need of a quick boost during your workout or just want to change your mood quickly, imagine doing something nice for someone or simply think about a time in the past when you did something nice and re-live that experience.

Try it today! You will find that you are able to put more into your workout and therefore get more out of it with this quick and easy technique.



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