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Monday, 3 November 2014

Think Yourself Young

Positive thinking is 'better than exercise at boosting fitness levels in the elderly'

  • Showing people subliminal positive stereotypes about age boosts health
  • Some people were shown words like 'spry' too fast to be consciously aware 
  • People shown these messages were better able to stand, walk and balance 
  • Impact of subliminal messaging greater than exercise, study found  

Scientists have discovered a new way to stay active while getting older: positive thinking.
A belief that older people aren't 'over the hill' may help a person stay more physically fit as they age, according to a study.

U.S. researchers found that older people who are subliminally exposed to positive stereotypes about ageing show improved physical health.

They wanted to understand how stereotypes about ageing affect reality, so they showed some older people positive messages about getting old, and compared them to people who weren't shown these positive messages. 

Older people who are subliminally exposed to positive stereotypes about ageing show improved physical health, a study found

After three weeks, people fed positive messages were better able to walk, balance and get up from a chair than those not exposed to positive messages about getting old.
They showed psychological improvements too: positive stereotypes about ageing were strengthened, and negative stereotypes about ageing were weakened, and these were shown to affect how the person perceived themselves.

The impact of the subliminal messages were even shown to be more effective than a previous study which prescribed six months of exercise.

As part of the study 100 older individuals, with an average age of 81 years, were split into four groups.

Some of the participants were subjected to positive stereotypes about ageing on a computer screen that flashed words such as 'spry' and 'creative' at speeds so fast that the brain registered them, but the person wasn't consciously aware of what they'd read.
The sessions lasted for about 15 minutes at a time.

Others were asked to write brief essays about active older people, the New York Times reports.

Follow up tests showed the people shown subliminal messages showed significant improvement in tasks such as repeatedly standing up from a chair and sitting down, walking across a room and holding poses that challenge balance.

Those asked to write essays showed no improvement.

Lead researcher Professor Becca Levy, from the Yale School of Public Health, said subliminal messages helped people overcome the negative stereotypes society imposes on the elderly.
She said: 'The challenge we had in this study was to enable the participants to overcome the negative age stereotypes which they acquire from society, as in everyday conversations and television comedies.

'The study's successful outcome suggests the potential of directing subliminal processes toward the enhancement of physical function.'

Professor Levy has previously shown that negative stereotypes about age can weaken an older person's physical health, but this was the first time that subliminally exposing people to positive stereotypes was found to improve physical health.
Being exposed to these positive stereotypes influenced health through a cascade of positive effects, the researchers found.
It strengthened their positive stereotypes, which then strengthened their positive self-perceptions, which then improved their physical function.
The study, which was carried out by researchers from Yale University and University of California, Berkeley, was published in the journal Psychological Science.



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