You’ve taken all the steps to up your workout game: You have the HIIT-the-ground-running morning routine down, you have enough workout apps to push the limits of your body AND your data plan and your gym playlist is always on point. You even know all the hacks to keep your yoga pants smelling fresh. Theoretically, you’re doing all the right things… but is your attitude as strong as your fitness routine resolve?

young woman at gym

You’re probably heard that exercise can give you a mental boost and help combat anxiety and depression. But according to a recent study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine and announced on Science Daily, research shows that actually believing that exercise will have a positive effect might be more important for your psychological and neurophysiological health than the workout itself.

Researchers invited 76 men and women into the lab for essentially a moderate-level, 30-minute spin sesh. Before they got on the bike, they were divided into two groups and shown videos that either extolled the positive health benefits of cycling or not. Basically, the lab was trying to manipulate their perceptions of the exercise, to see how their expectations would affect the benefits of the workout. They also surveyed them on their existing understanding and beliefs about the benefits of physical activity.

spinning class

The result (as monitored through brain activity scans): Basically, if your exercise attitude was already high, the increased benefits were a self-fulfilling prophecy. (When expectations were only successfully manipulated with the videos, there wasn’t the same psychological impact.) Participants who were already all “Yes, love it, bring it” about the exercise before they even got to the lab proved to enjoy it more, had more improved mood and higher reduction of anxiety. And the hard brain-monitoring data revealed that they were also more relaxed on a neuronal level.

So if you’re just begrudgingly exercising because you feel like you have to, you should try mastering a more positive relationship with your gym time. And in case you were wondering, the effect is the same across all forms of endurance exercise — you don’t have to go out and trade your running shoes for a road bike. Things like swimming, jogging, cross-country skiing and other cardio activities all apply. So on the days you’re dreading having to go get a workout in, try switching up your routine! We have plenty of suggestions for you.

Do you notice that working out improves your mood? Tell us what you’re doing right by tweeting @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)