Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hating exercise

I'm working on my memoirs and I'm up to 2009. I just wrote about the first time I experienced a Runner's High. Therefore, it's ironic that I came across this article about how humans are supposedly hard-wired to hate exercise.

Actually, the article doesn't say that all humans are hard-wired to hate exercise. That's just the catchy headline designed to make you read the article which is about something completely different.

What the article actually talks about is the differences between those who seem to love exercise and those who hate it. Since I'm also working on a presentation about changing our attitudes towards exercise, I was hoping for some great insights or some recent research to help my audience. There really wasn't anything earth shattering but it was still an interesting article.

The main thing I got out of the article is that many people are exercising too hard. That's because even things like going for a short walk is too hard for them. So they do something that is supposed to be "easy" and they are pushing beyond their intrinsic range of physical ability which makes them hate the activity and want to stop. I see this all the time. I even see it among triathletes who don't seem to know how to back off and so end up frustrating themselves.

The idea is that we all have this thing called a "ventilatory threshold" which is the point where the release of carbon dioxide exceeds the intake of oxygen. For most of us, this threshold is around 50-60% of our maximum capacity. But there is a lot of variation between individuals. Sedentary people may hit it at 35% while an elite athlete can go as high as 80%.

In the obese and extremely unfit, something like cooking dinner might be enough to push you to your ventilatory threshold. In one study, obese women got there with only one minute on the treadmill. So, if you think you hate exercise, try doing less and going slower and see if that helps!

Other aspects that can help you enjoy or hate exercise include things like listening to music (helps), viewing pictures of green trees (helps) vs. red stuff (hurts), and how you interpret the physical sensations of exercise such as buildup of lactic acid or increase in body temperature. Some interpret as these sensations as signs of a good workout or signs of making progress while others just find them uncomfortable. I think it's clear which one leads to liking exercise.

Another big factor for some adults is feeling competent at the exercise you pick. If you feel incompetent, you aren't going to enjoy it. Other critical factors are whether you feel you have a choice and whether the activity fosters something called "social relatedness." Which as far as I've been able to determine just means whether you feel connected to other people when you do it.

So... it sum up: find something you love, that lets you connect with people, feel competent, and do it outside or while listening to music and take it easy at first and build up from there.
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