We all have things we enjoy in our lives. It can be anything from food to music, to what sport we prefer to watch, or even what we enjoy watching on TV. We enjoy these things because our brains tell us so. If we eat something and we enjoy it, then in the future if we think about this food again, our brain will let us know we enjoy it and therefore we will look to eat it again. Everything we do is stored in our brain and those good or bad experiences we gain are all stored there for future reference. Approaching exercise is no different. If you have rarely exercised, our brain will suddenly stop and say: “whoa, what’re we doing? We don’t like exercise! Lets sit down and watch TV instead – we like that!”. That’s essentially what our brain thinks when we begin to exercise and is ultimately the main cause for not persisting with exercise programs. Our brain is a complex mechanism and responds to things we do and don’t like, so of course if we want to exercise then the response from our brain will be “no”. Luckily for us we can reprogram what we like and don’t like through positive experiences, essentially replacing this automatic “No” response to a ‘Yes” response. (Precisely the response we want when faced with the question: “Should I exercise or not today?”)
We can do this by simply taking on a different perspective of our experiences and using them to our advantage when exercising. Thinking about previous exercise experiences may put you off doing it again and can even trick your brain into thinking you don’t actually enjoy it. The first step is always the hardest, so you have to convince your brain into thinking exercise is not only good for you but can also be fun and enjoyable (which it is!!). Taking positives from previous experiences is the way to do this, which is simply done once we take a minute and actually think about how we have exercised. (There are always positives to take from any situation and it’s important to remember this to maintain our confidence). Once we look at the positives and our brains are happy that we can not only benefit from exercise but also enjoy it we can start to change our mental approach to exercise by programming the brain into responding to exercise with a positive, exciting response. By performing physical exercise and feeling all the benefits that come along with it, i.e. better mood, more confidence, increased motivation, healthier body and weight loss to name a few, the brain will start to recognise how much we enjoy our exercise and will even begin to encourage us more often to do it. I’m sure you’ll then realise how often you will start to think about how much you enjoy exercise and therefore exercise much more often than you would have done before, as your brain no longer tries to convince you otherwise but encourages you to exercise instead.
KEY POINT: It takes time and effort to reprogram your brain but by filling your time with positive experiences of exercise and looking at the positives, you will begin to change the way your brain views exercise and will enjoy it a whole lot more as your brain and body works together towards a healthier lifestyle.
Thomas Buck (Research Assistant, Rescon)