Here’s Why Your Brain Never Wants You to Work Out

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When it comes to exercising, few of us actually ever want to do it. But it turns out that there’s a biological reason why we’d rather binge-watch our favorite shows on Netflix than hit the gym. Yep, you read that right. It’s not you, it’s science!

In a recent study, Matthieu Boisgontier, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia, recruited 29 participants and showed them images of physical activity and physical inactivity. The participants wore electrodes while looking at the images, which registered their brain activity. Participants were then asked to move on-screen avatars toward the pictures of physical activity as fast as they could in one test and vice versa in another test.

The result?

Boisgontier and his colleagues found that the participants moved their on-screen avatars faster toward images of physical inactivity.  Interestingly, participants also showed more brain activity when moving their on-screen avatars away from the images of physical inactivity.

So what does this all mean?

Boisgontier’s study reveals that our brains work harder even when we’re just considering exercise, which helps explain why you sometimes feel like you’re quite literally glued to the couch. But why? The reason likely dates back to survival instincts. Since mankind first walked the earth, conserving physical energy has been necessary for survival as this helped us increase our efficiency when searching for food and shelter.

Well…now what?

Our brains might be drawn to sedentary behaviors, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. The key is to trick your brain into wanting to work out. We know, we know, easier said than done. The answer might be to stop telling yourself to work out and start getting yourself to work out via enticement. One solution is to make your workouts feel more like play. Whether this means gathering a group of friends for a game of basketball or dancing around your house like a lunatic — when we make exercise stop feeling like exercise, we can (at least partially) overcome our innate disposition to sitting on the couch.