It is well known that exercise has positive effects on the brain due to the ‘feel good’ hormones (endorphins) that are released. Studies have proven that exercise is a great stress reliever in addition to all of the other positive benefits that come along with it. However, always finding the motivation to get up and exercise may be a challenge for you if it is not already a regular part of your lifestyle. Studies show that conjuring up memories of the last few times exercised could help you get the motivation you need to get off the couch at any time.
The study published in the journal Memory was the first of its kind to illustrate how conjuring up previous exercise sessions can help motivate you when you don’t feel like exercising. The study asked 150 college students to recall a positive or negative exercise memory to use for exercise motivation. The control group wasn’t asked to recall a memory. A week later, the students were interviewed to review their physical activity levels. The students that conjured up a positive memory exercised more than those that recalled negative memories (like being sore afterward). However even the group that recalled negative memories still exercised more than the control group. This is likely because exercise releases positive hormones while you are exercising even if you have sore muscles afterward.
The most intriguing part of this study is that it was done with a sample of college students without any explicit direction and amidst the distractions and interruptions of a busy college campus. They were able to exercise more simply by bringing up memories! The study didn’t report how much more the students exercised, but this data isn’t necessary if you are simply needing motivation to exercise more and any amount of exercise is better than none!
Take a few minutes to yourself and think about the last few times you exercised. Was it with a group or were you alone? How did you feel afterward? I would assume that you felt better about yourself? If you were sore for a little while, the soreness eventually went away, right? If you were struggling to keep up with the class, I hope the instructor helped you feel comfortable enough to go at your own pace and come back again.