In this crazy world filled with social media and #fitspo, it is far too easy to compare ourselves to others—and get down on ourselves for not eating clean 100% of the time or for skipping a workout or for, we don’t know, just being a normal human who sometimes needs to take a rest day or eat a slice of pizza. According to a new study, this can be quite detrimental, but not only for the reason you’re thinking. Turns out, the way we think about our fitness levels impacts our health.
A study in Health Psychology, which used data from over 60,000 adults over a 16-year period, found that people who perceived themselves as less healthy than those around them were actually 71% more likely to die earlier—even if they were the same level of physical fitness.
“People’s perceptions about their level of physical activity and its expected risks and benefits are an important—albeit often overlooked—variable that can influence health outcomes and strengthen or weaken the benefits of physical activity,” the study says. “For any given level of physical activity, people may perceive themselves as more or less active, fit and healthy, depending on what they believe is the ‘right’ type and amount of activity based on health guidelines, social comparison and other sources of information.”
The moral of the story (or study, as it were): Give yourself credit for the hard work you do to stay fit, and you’ll reap more benefits from said hard work. The power of positive thinking never ceases to amaze us.