Turning exercise information into motivation, part 1

Turning exercise information into motivation, part 3-9.pngCheck out this new TED Talk by Wendy Suzuki, PhD. Dr. Suzuki is a neuroscientist who, after an transformational personal experience with exercise, changed the focus of her brain research lab at NYU to study the effects of exercise on the brain.  She is one of my research heroes!

Her research adds to the already convincing evidence that movement makes our body and brain function at its best. When I watch this video or read research like it, my initial response is  “Yay! This is SO great!” But my second thought is always, “Oh no! 80% of the people hearing this are feeling even more guilt because they don’t get enough exercise!”

Why? Well, there is a clue in the last three minutes of Dr. Suzuki’s talk. She says everyone really only wants to know one thing: “Just tell me the minimum amount of exercise I need to get all these changes?” Why do we ask that? Well, yes, we are busy. Finding the time to exercise is the biggest reason people do not exercise. Yet, we find time for other things with a much smaller return on our investment—watching a movie, going out to dinner, surfing social media, playing video games.  Why are we resisting the time investment for exercise?

Dr. Suzuki states the goal of her research right now. “I want to understand the optimal exercise prescription for YOU, at your age, at your fitness level, for your genetic background, to maximize the effects of exercise for your brain today … and the rest of your life.” Thank you, Dr. Suzuki! It will be very helpful for us to get specifics about just how much we should be doing.

But even this specific information will not lead to motivation. That is because it cannot replace one of the critical skills for lasting motivation: the ability to listen to and trust your own unique, ever-changing body as your source for the most reliable and up-to-date information about exercise. No expert or technology can ever give you that information.

This approach does not come easily in a culture that loves the numbers—steps, miles, calories—so give it time. This week, simply notice what you listen to more—your body or the numbers. See what happens when you put all your trust in the most advanced source of information—your body in the present moment.

Next week, we will look at another key skill for turning exercise information into lasting motivation. Stay tuned!

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