If you can’t be bothered to hit the gym, blame your brain. According to scientists, our brains are hard-wired to be lazy, making exercise a continuous struggle.
It sounds like a losing battle. Is there anything that makes getting ourselves off the sofa and into the gym easier?
WHAT WAS THE STUDY?
Researchers in Columbia, Canada investigated the ‘exercise paradox’ – the fact that we want to workout, but struggle when it comes to actually doing it. They sat young adults in front of computers then flashed images in front of them of physical activity (like someone lifting weights) and physical inactivity (like someone lying on a sun lounger).
Participants had to move the mouse closer towards physical activity images, and away from the more sedentary activities they should be avoiding.
WHAT DID THE STUDY SHOW?
Participants were faster at moving toward active pictures and away from sedentary activities. But interestingly, electrodes attached to their brains showed that doing the latter required more brain effort.
In other words, avoiding the lure of physical inactivity is tough! We all have the intention to workout but in real life it’s hard to follow through. Our brains are innately attracted to being lazy, perhaps because of a primitive need to conserve energy, and this is largely automatic.
WHAT CAN I DO TO OVERCOME MY LAZY BRAIN?
Clearly, public health campaigns to get people to exercise more aren’t enough – we already intend to workout. Because it’s largely an unconscious reaction it will also be difficult to inhibit. However, here’s some things to try:
- Be aware of your lazy brain – that’s the first step.
- Next, trying to override thinking about exercise by building up the exercise habit.
- Make physical activity less daunting by breaking it down into small chunks. So if your aim is to run 5k in 20 minutes, focus on how much time you need to spend running each session, so it doesn’t seem such a physical challenge.
- Make exercise fun – the best way to trick your brain!