Why Our Brains May be Wired To Keep Us Sedentary
For many of us, we have a hit or miss relationship with exercise. We know it’s good for our bodies to be physically active, but actually motivating ourselves on a regular basis to hit the gym is another story.
We may have the best intentions to be physically active, develop a plan to workout and then struggle to get motivated to actually complete the workout. Most blame a lack of time, facilities to workout at or having the energy, but a new study has shown that it may actually be how our brains are wired that is holding us back.
A revolutionary study out of the Journal of Neuropsychologia, has shown that we may be wired to prefer inactivity over exercise. Researchers claim this shows that even when people know that exercise is good for them and plan to work out, electrical signals within their brains may be nudging them toward being sedentary.
The study involved 29 young and healthy men and women who claimed to want to exercise, but didn’t often. After fitting the volunteers with a special cap that monitored their brain activity, they walked them through an elaborate computer test designed to probe how they felt about exercise.
They were shown images of stick figure engaging in either active activities like hiking or running, or passive activities like laying in a hammock. The volunteers all consciously were drawn to the active stick figures over the passive ones, but what happened in their brains subconsciously told a different story.
According to the results of the electrical brain activity, the volunteer’s brains were more easily drawn to the sedentary images, especially in parts of the brain related to preventing actions. The effort it took our brains to move towards the images of hammocks or couches was much slighter than the active images, showing that those images resonated more easily with our brains.
“To me, these findings would seem to indicate that our brains are innately attracted to being sedentary,” says Matthieu Boisgontier, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada told the New York Times.
But we also can consciously choose to move, he says, despite what our brains may think.
An easy way to overcome your brain’s bias toward being sedentary is to condition it to experience movement naturally all day long. When you sit on a motion office chair, like swopper or 3dee, you are constantly moving in all three dimensions – up and down, back and forth and side to side. At first the movement may feel jarring to the brain, but quite quickly it becomes subconscious and second nature.
Also when you are moving all throughout your day, you ease some of the pressure to make up for a sedentary lifestyle by spending hours at the gym. All of the health issue associated with being sedentary are drastically reduced when you’re sitting in motion all throughout the day.
If you’re one of those people who has the best intentions, but struggles to actually get to the gym regularly, changing out your static office chair with a swopper may help you incorporate movement into your life without having to fight with how your brain is wired.