Wanna Be as Strong as Popeye? Forget Spinach. Try Doing Good, Instead.

Doing good is a sign of a strong character, right? But did you know it also enhances physical strength, as well? According to a study by Kurt Gray at Harvard University, our willingness to pay it forward might just pay us back with physical stamina and grit.

The Popeye effect of charitable works is astounding. In Gray's first experiment, he gave participants a dollar, which they could either keep or donate to charity. Then, the subjects were asked to hold up a five pound weight for as long as they could. Those who turned over their buck to charity could hold up the weight an average of ten seconds longer.

In the next feats of strength test, Gray asked participants to hold a weight while writing a fictional piece about themselves either helping, harming or doing something that had no impact on anyone else. Just as in the previous experiment, the imaginary do-gooders were remarkably stronger that those whose actions had no impact. But, weirdly, those who fantasized about doing evil to another were even more tough than those who saw themselves doing good deeds.

Gray believes he knows why. "Whether you're saintly or nefarious, there seems to be power in moral events," says Gray in a Science Daily story. "People often look at others who do great or evil deeds and think, 'I could never do that' or 'I wouldn't have the strength to do that.' But in fact, this research suggests that physical strength may be an effect, not a cause, of moral acts."

Perhaps, this explains the phenomena of ordinary folks lifting cars to save the life of a person pinned underneath? Their inner drive to help powers up their outward actions, I'm just saying.

Story by Anne Driscoll. Originally published by Tonic
 

Photo by Melissa Maples via Flickr.
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