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Hardwired for Laziness? Tests Show Human Brain Must Work Hard to Avoid Sloth

If you can’t seem to motivate yourself to get off the couch and get moving, it may be that you just need to retrain your brain into thinking yourself out of your seat. In a EurekAlert! news release, researchers at University of British Columbia said they’ve found evidence that your brain may actually be hardwired to counteract physical activity, and that our sedentary culture may be feeding the sloth mode. Researchers said that now that they know what’s happening, their next step will be to study whether brains can be retrained.

It’s truly amazing at just how powerful your brain is when it comes to physical health. Time and again, studies have shown that merely having positive thoughts toward whatever you’re doing can have positive outcomes, both physically and mentally. To that end, certain emotions are known to be directly associated with pain in certain regions of your body — for example, depressed individuals often experience chest pains, even when there’s nothing physically wrong with them.

So, the question is: Do you really need to wait on another study to find out whether you can “retrain” your brain to WANT to get up and get going? Do you really HAVE to relegate yourself to staying in a culture of what the researchers called “sloth?” In a word, no. If for no other reason than physical movement and exercise can help your mental well-being, the best way to get out of the sloth mode is to begin by simply standing up.

Think of it this way: Over 300 joints in your body make moving easier and more fluid, but you have to be moving to help those joints out. To get moving, you need to stand — and if you need an affirmation for your brain for doing that, research shows that moving as little as 10 minutes for every hour you sit can reduce the negative effects of sitting too much. If you’re in an office job that requires sitting, you can overcome that by moving your computer onto a stack of books and standing to work.

If you need more motivation for your brain, remember that sitting too much can age you by as much as eight years — and since I don’t know anyone who wishes they can get older, faster, that should be an impetus on its own. It can feel overwhelming to think about giving up your chair, but it's not an all-or-nothing proposition. Rather than focusing on not sitting, think about ways to move more. You might pace while talking on the phone or check your morning emails while doing squats in front of your computer.

From there, you can incorporate movement exercises that include taking a walk for a lunch, and then adding some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) at some point during your day. One form of HIIT that I practice is the Nitric Oxide Dump, which can be done anywhere, anytime, in as little as three minutes per set. If you do it three times a day, then you’ve essentially exercised as much as you would on a full, old-fashioned HIIT program.

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