Exercise and the placebo feel-good factor

I had an epiphany about exercise this morning. About length 16 it was. I spent the remaining 14 lengths, (or maybe the remaining 12 lengths – I tend to lose count around length 23), thinking about it.

My rather damp epiphany is that half the vaunted benefits of exercise are in fact just placebos and I am immune to them. This is the reason why lycra-clad gym-bunnies assume that I am being stupid, mad, stroppy or all three when I tell them that, no, exercise does not make me feel good.

I can only manage swimming for half an hour if I approach it as a meditation practice and concentrate on doing the perfect stroke. And then the next one. And then the next one. The mindfulness of swimming. Feel the water around your nostrils and on your upper lip. Etc.

  • No. I don’t have more energy afterwards. Placebo.
  • No. I don’t need less sleep. Placebo.
  • No. It does not put me in a better mood. Placebo.
  • No. I don’t enjoy it at the time. Placebo.
  • No. I don’t enjoy it afterwards. Placebo.
  • No. I have never ever found myself getting addicted to it. Placebo.
  • Or even used to it, really.
  • No, no, NO it is NOT – heaven spare us all – fun. Place-ee-frotting-BO. OK?

I swim with gritted teeth and go to the gym in a state of desperation crossed with Calvinist bloody-mindedness because you don’t see fat people in their 50s, because my mother disabled herself through sustained inactivity, because (and only because) it is Good For Me.

7 responses to “Exercise and the placebo feel-good factor

  1. Amen, sister. I’m right there with you.

  2. Yeah, me too. Except on the actual doing exercise bit, mind.

  3. Well, I feel better when I am fitter, and I get fitter by doing exercise, and I feel worse when I’m unfit, and I get more unfit by not doing exercise. Therefore exercising makes me feel good, not exercising makes me feel bad.

    Except this is not an immediate effect. Not by a loooooong way. I hate it at the time (except a couple of silly/fun classes I did but they weren’t actually very hard work), I do feel better after I’ve stopped doing it (in much the same way you feel better after you stop doing anything unpleasant), but I don’t get that post-exercise euphoria (just hunger).

    But on balance, having not done much for about five months now, I feel worse for not doing it. It is just a longer term gain than I’d really like for that much pain…

  4. Sol, Courtney, I am glad it isn’t just me. I find that people look at me oddly when I say “but exercise is NOT fun”.

    Kelli, what you are saying is exactly my experience. It isn’t enjoyable at the time. I can tell the difference when exercise is part of my life and when it isn’t. Actually there’s another blog brewing on that one.

    Thanks for reading and posting.


  5. I just discovered this post randomly today for some reason and, even thought it’s a year old, I thought I would reply, seeing as I’ve just run 20 miles (Training for the NYC marathon).

    I was just thinking that maybe you should take up running. True, it is not fun in the beginning but once you get good at it, it does make you feel great. You get such a sense of achievement and sometimes (I say sometimes – not all the time) you really do get that runner’s high they talk about.

    By the way, is there a way I can subscribe to your blog? Maybe I’m just being unobservant, but I can’t see a button to subscribe anywhere!

  6. I felt better when my metabolism started improving, but to this day I have never felt particularly good during or after exercise, in fact, often I feel worse after it! Haha, but I agree with your assessment here.

  7. But running scares me Serizy.

    Chris, I am glad it isn’t just me.


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