So, if you struggle to work out, it’s not just you — it’s a common problem that stems back to an earlier evolutionary era when people’s lives and needs were dramatically different. Exercising can be a well-loved activity for some and a dreaded task for others that can sometimes take a lot of motivation in order to complete everyday. While many of us seek out gym partners for motivation to avoid being “too lazy” when it comes to keeping up fitness levels, it turns out that science may have now proven that you may not be as lazy as you would expect when it comes to the topic. Exercise physiologists, psychologists and practitioners have long been interested by the difference between people’s plans and desires to be physically active and their normal day-to-day behaviour, which usually involves doing the opposite. Typically, we in general tend to assume the worst and point the blame on lack of time, facilities or ability. However, could it really just be the way our brain works?
A number of media and publications recently reported on a new study that showed that even when people would make plans to exercise, electrical signals within the brain might be wired to do something else more relaxed – like sitting, for example. The publication then went on to discuss further reports that these findings might explain why so many people tend to struggle to keep up with the motivation in order to exercise regularly, despite knowing the health benefits associated with it. When originally discussing what really might be causing this effect to be occurring in this common disconnect, researchers first reviewed previous research that showed that participants genuinely wanted to exercise. Researchers began by conducting a small study with 29 healthy young men and women and found that, even though participants said that they wanted to be active, only a few of them really were on a regular basis.
According to the research itself, the tendency towards sitting and relaxing might date back to earlier eras when people needed to conserve energy at specific times, like if a hunt was on for the next day, in order to survive. Alternatively, human bodies tend to choose the easiest and most efficient movements possible at a give time, which can interfere with the bodies wants and in-turn impact their plans for more intense forms of exercise.
The co-author of the study at hand, Max Donelan, who is a well-known professor of biomedical physiology and kinesiology at Simon Fraser University in Canada recently spoke to publication TIME about the research, stating that the nervous system might be wired to keep calories burned to a minimum, since fewer calories burned at key times meant that people were better able to handle seasonal food shortages at earlier evolutionary stages.
“The nervous system is capable of doing this energy optimisation and does it below your level of consciousness to such a fine degree. This is the first real strong evidence that the nervous system even has the ability to do that.” stated Max Donelan.
Researchers also stated that he’d like to expand and survey children and older people in future studies to gather more of an idea on how it works. The researchers behind the study also made a point to note the experiment as empowering, in a sense. Stating that people who are reluctant to exercise “should maybe know that it is not just them.”
However, that’s not all. According to the study and it’s results, “additional cortical resources were required to counteract an attraction to sedentary behaviours”, which basically means that it can take a little bit of brain training to overcome these automatic processes in the brain and body if you want to push past the procrastination get a healthy, daily workout to impact your life positively. Further research on the matter as a whole is currently needed to expand upon the current findings.