Just Thinking About Exercising Is Exhausting For Our Brains

Ever felt tired at just the thought of hitting the gym? Well, your lazy brain is to blame!

Finally, we have an excuse for the times we sat in our car at the gym parking lot for nearly a half hour before finally starting the engine and driving back home. According to a new Canadian study, simply thinking about exercise taxes the human brain.

Matthieu Boisgontier from the University of British Columbia led a team of researchers seeking an explanation for the idea that people are becoming more sedentary despite decades of education about the benefits of physical activity.

“A lot of money has been invested in being more physically active. People understand that it’s healthier, but the brain is actually preventing this healthier behaviour,” Boisgontier told CTV News Channel.

Boisgontier and his team believed the answer might lie in the brain. They say their research, published in the October edition of the journal Neuropsychologia, proves them right.

The researchers reached their conclusions by putting 29 people in front of computers and asking them to control on-screen avatars. We can only assume the 29 were enticed with the promise of no Wii Fit controllers.

The group was shown a series of images displaying scenes of physical activity or inactivity. They were instructed to move their avatars toward activity-related images – such as a person climbing a set of stairs -- and away from the inactivity-related images – a personal lounging on a hammock, for example -- as quickly as possible.

All the while, subjects were hooked up to electrodes to monitor their brain activity.

Researchers found that moving the avatar away from scenes of inactivity exerted the subjects’ brains more than moving it toward scenes of activity. Researchers say the finding suggests people have a natural inclination toward laziness.

“We still have this inside our brain, but we need to fight it to be more physically active and more healthy,” Boisgontier said.

According to Boisgontier, humans’ tendency away from unnecessary exertion likely evolved because it lets individuals conserve energy and put it toward more important uses such as finding food, shelter and sexual partners.

But Laura Corbit, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s psychology department, suggested that the findings may be swayed by the fact that the study included participants who expressed a desire to boost their physical activity levels.

“So someone who may not want to make that change might not experience the consequence that the people in that experiment did,” Corbit told CTV News Channel.

Future research could look at whether brains can be retrained to work around the automatic inclination toward inactivity. Until then, put your feet up and give your brain a break.