Mind-Set Matters – Exercise and the Placebo Effect

CIRI Comment


This study is of interest because it evaluates scientifically how housekeeping’s processes may impact our thinking and health, and vice versa. While it mentions the placebo effect,  the effect might just be more complex and real than some suppose.  This kind of research should rightly create buzz. Does cleaning provide exercise?  Yes. Can this make us healthier?  Yes – but the study also shows the importance of a positive attitude. The article makes the statement,  “actual behavior did not change” between those who were told the value of exercise versus those who were not, but we submit that behaviors could have been subtlety affected  – certainly attitude and behavior are intertwined.



In a study testing whether the relationship between exercise and health is moderated by one’s mindset, 84 female room attendants working in seven different hotels were measured on physiological health variables affected by exercise. Those in the informed condition were told that the work they do (cleaning hotel rooms) is good exercise and satisfies the Surgeon General’s recommendations for an active lifestyle. Examples of how their work was exercise were provided. Subjects in the control group were not given this information. Although actual behavior did not change, 4 weeks after the intervention, the informed group perceived themselves to be getting significantly more exercise than before. As a result, compared with the control group, they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index. These results support the hypothesis that exercise affects health in part or in whole via the placebo effect.


Authors: Alia J. Crum, Ellen J. Langer
Harvard University


Crum, Alia J., and Ellen J. Langer. 2007. Mind-set matters: Exercise and the placebo effect. Psychological Science 18, no. 2: 165-171.


ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:3196007