We all have days when we’d rather sit on the couch and binge watch our favorite shows than head to the gym, but what makes some people get up and go anyway while others stay put?
A recently released study from the University of Missouri may have the answer — at least a preliminary one. Frank Booth, a professor at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, and his research team found a link between exercise motivation and genetics in rats by selectively breeding ones that exhibited traits of either extreme activity or extreme laziness. They say these rats indicate that genetics could play a role in exercise motivation in humans as well.
After observing several hundred rats in exercise and non-exercise scenarios (through 10 generations), Booth found that there could be a link between the genes responsible for exercise motivation and early exposure to exercise opportunities. The rats bred for running sought out exercise 10 times more than the group of rats not exposed to the running wheel at a young age. In other words, rats exposed at a young age to exercise options tended to seek out exercise throughout the rest of their lives.
“This study illustrates a potentially important link between exercise and the development of these neural pathways,” Booth said in a release on the research. “Ultimately, this could show the benefits of exercise for mental development in humans, especially young children with constantly growing brains.” It also supports the notion that early exposure to exercise can be influential in raising children who want to be physically active.
Other Reasons You May Avoid Exercising
There are many reasons beyond a possible genetic predisposition to laziness that people avoid exercise, according to Michael George, Body Soul Fitness & Lifestyle Transformation Coach and author of Body Express Makeover. “Fear of failure, intimidation, inability to commit to a new routine, underestimating the value of their health and low pain threshold are some of the most common,” he says. For some, being less than perfect is also an issue.
“Perfectionism haunts them and holds them back,” says George. “If they can’t do it perfectly, they won’t even try.”
Laziness is on his list, too, but the number one excuse he hears for avoiding exercise is not having “enough time.” Sound familiar?
So How Can You Increase Exercise Motivation?
Instead of allowing your excuses to steal away the opportunity for better health, George says to find something — anything — that inspires you to be active.
“Get moving, do anything that’s physical — a walk, yard work, hiking, bike riding — that gets your heart rate up,” suggests George. “Find an activity you enjoy and make it a hobby.”
As far as the particulars of Booth’s study, George says it’s too soon to draw too many conclusions where humans are concerned.
“More clinical research in humans, with a larger sample size and control groups need to be further researched,” says George. “From a genetic and neurological perspective there may be some truth to their finding in rats but more research is needed.”
In the meantime, put down the remote and find your own fitness motivation.
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Katie Parsons is a journalist and editor who lives on the East Coast of Florida. She contributes regularly to KnowMore.tv and sister site GalTime.com.