Haven’t you ever sat on your couch thinking that now would be a good idea to go for a walk or take out one of your favorite fitness dvds only to decline because you imagined how hard it would be to put on the exercise clothes and get going. Hard enough to get you slouch back in the couch – perhaps immersing yourself in an episode of Biggest Loser instead. 🙂
The problem is that the above scenario is wrong.
Usually, when you start exercising you actually realize that exercise is much more enjoyable than you predicted. If you think back and take stock, how many times have you actually returned from a walk in a worse mood than when you were in when you started?
Personally, I don’t remember any occasions like that. I always get back refreshed and energized.
I recently stumbled upon a research paper that explains this phenomenon. In a paper entitled the Invisible Benefits of Exercise, researchers came to the conclusion that people underestimate the actual enjoyment they get from exercise, partly because the beginning of exercise is more prominent in their minds that the whole duration of it. And the beginning is often the hardest part of exercising.
The researchers explained that the phenomenon in question is a reasoning bias – an affective forecasting bias – to be exact. It means that people are generally poor at predicting how satisfying or enjoyable a particular activity – like exercise – actually is and what effect it has on their lives. That is why people are so convinced that winning in a lottery will transform their lives for the better – even if it doesn’t.
The reasoning bias is very persistent though.
If I take a break from my exercise routine for any reason I usually struggle a bit to get back into action, mainly because I’m convinced exercising will be r-e-a-l-l-y hard! The only reason it’s hard is because I’m making it hard for myself by thinking that way.
So the next time you sit on your couch and debate whether to go for a walk or not, remind yourself that your mind may be playing tricks on you. Exercise is not that hard.
P.S. There is one problem though: if you choose a level of exercise that is too difficult for your current fitness level, you can practically guarantee a bad experience. Don’t fall into this trap if you’re thinking about starting exercise.