Mirror, mirror, on the wall

When you go to the gym, do you check yourself out in the mirror? That’s maybe not such a good idea, according to a new report by McMaster University professors. They found that young women who rode an exercise-bike in front of a mirror felt worse than those who did so without mirrors. As CNN.com reports:

When women rode while they could watch themselves in the mirror, they wound up feeling worse than they did when they could not look at themselves, the study found. For example, the mirrored rides left women feeling less calm and more fatigued.

Apparently, the scientists kind of expected to find this mirror-depression effect, since “other studies had found that gazing into a mirror tends to make a person feel worse”. And you know how exercising has been proven to make people feel better about themselves? This new study found that working out in front of a mirror eradicates that positive spin. As far as your self-esteem goes, you might as well have not exercised in the first place.

There is, of course, one exception: Hard-core gym freaks who have already sculpted their body into a piece of die-cast precision machinery. “Other researchers have found that highly active women who exercised in front of a mirror felt better for it, possibly because they got to show themselves how good they did,” as CNN.com delicately puts it.

Nice. To sum it all up: Beautiful hot narcissists love staring at themselves in the gym; the rest of us just get demoralized and depressed.

No wonder I haven’t exercised in 15 years.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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