Science 3 min read

Fooling Brain Into Thinking Your Body is Working Harder Than It is

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GaudiLab /

You may not actually be working as hard as you’d thought.

According to a team of researchers from various institutions in Italy and France, we can trick our brain into thinking the body is working harder than it is. Sounds a bit far-fetched, right?

In their study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team described the experiment that led to this conclusion.

It all began with volunteers riding exercise bikes.

Most exercises come with different feelings. For example, you could feel like you’ve been jogging for hours when the pedometers show just a couple of minutes.

But, the time spent exercising does not tell the whole story. To get a full picture of exertion, we must factor in the heart rate as well.

That’s what the researchers did in this latest effort. They explored the complicated relationship between the heart and the mind.

Working Hard Could be a Mind Thing

For the experiment, the researchers got 18 participants to ride exercise bikes while wearing headphones. Why the headphones, you wonder?

It enabled the riders to listen to varied sounds of beating hearts. While the heartbeat was slow in some instances, in other cases, it was fast.

After the exercise, the researchers asked the riders how hard they felt they had worked on the exercise bikes.

The volunteers were convinced that they were working harder than they actually were when the fast heartbeats played in the headphones. The riders believed this to be accurate, even when they were listening to a heartbeat that’s slower than usual.

Based on the findings, the researchers concluded that we could trick the mind into feeling more exertion than it has actually experienced. The researchers noted:

“This idea is consistent with previous research showing that (mentally) fatigued persons overestimate their physical exertion levels, plausibly as a protection mechanism against the risks of excessive effort.”

There’s just one question; why did the brain not react to the slow beating heart? According to the researchers, it’s may be due to a remnant of ancient survival techniques.

In the past, humans had to rely solely on physical prowess to survive. For this reason, we could not overexert while pursuing prey because our mind falsely thinks we’re not working hard enough.

The researchers also noted a compelling logic. Considering the experience comes with an actual exertion, it would be difficult to convince anyone that they are not working hard enough.

While hard work may be a mind thing, its results are undeniably tangible.

Read More: Effect of Morning Exercise is Different from Evenings’

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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