The placebo effect of personalised training

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Believing that the training programme has been personally optimised just for oneself creates a placebo effect that leads to better results.

This is confirmed by a Norwegian pilot studycalled "The effects of being told you are in the intervention group on training outcomes"In this pilot study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers at the University of Agder found that the placebo effect, which is common in medicine, also applies to physical exercise.

"If you believe that the training programme you are following has been optimised for you, that in itself will have an effect, regardless of the content of the programme. It's exactly like the placebo effect we know from medicine," says researcher Kolbjørn Andreas Lindberg.

The University of Agder study involved 40 people who underwent physical tests in a laboratory and then received very similar training programmes.

Half of the group (the intervention group) was told that the training programme had been specially adapted for them according to the evidence. The control group received no such message.

The groups were re-evaluated after eight and ten weeks of training and it turned out that those who thought they had received an individually tailored training programme had achieved better results on average than the control group.

The main differences were with regard to squats and overall muscle thickness.

Lindberg says this may seem surprising and confirms the theory that believing that your training programme has been personally tailored for yourself may produce better results.

"It is possible that the intervention group felt they had to perform, as the programme was supposed to give them results," he says. "Also those who thought they were following a personal programme trained a bit more and with greater intensity. Many of these small factors can affect the results. More details on the study here.