The human brain is amazing. It can help you to overcome some of the biggest challenges life can throw at you.
While signing up to the gym might seem like a straightforward task, sticking to a workout routine is difficult - and even the fittest, strongest people find it hard to keep it up.
We’ve delved into the research around the psychology of exercise and motivation to share these five tips to help you stay motivated when it feels easier to stay home.
Work out with a friend
Two studies from the University of Michigan showed that working out with a partner helped participants improve their performance.
In a study of 58 females, participants who were assigned a partner, and then were told that their partners had performed better than them before the trial, and that their performance on the day would determine their partner’s performance too, lasted on average ten minutes longer on a stationary bike than the group who exercised alone.
In the second study, people paired up with slightly superior virtual exercise partners could hold a plank longer.
Trick your brain with music
There is a huge body of research that shows that music can elevate mood, increase endurance and distract you from pain and fatigue.
In a 2012 review of the literature, world expert on the psychology of exercise music Costas Karageorghis described music as "a type of legal performance-enhancing drug."
Karageorghis and colleagues even published a study again in 2012 that showed that participants who cycled in time to music required 7 percent less oxygen to do the same work as cyclists who did not synchronize their movements with background music.
Researchers from the University of New Hampshire found that participants who focused on positive memories around exercise were more likely to go back to the gym in the week after the interview.
In the study, a group of 150 people were split into three. The first group was asked to think about something positive that happened to them that would increase their motivation to exercise. The second group was asked to think about something negative that happened that would increase their motivation to exercise. The third group was not asked to recall any memory.
Eight days later researchers found that the group who focused on positive memories exercised more than each of the other two groups.
Set realistic goals
In a 2011 study, researchers found that people who set process-based goals - things like lifting a slightly higher weight over the course of a month - were much more motivated to stick with their fitness routine than those who focused on achieving a certain outcome.
It makes sense, but enjoying your workout keeps you motivated.
Researchers from the Humboldt University in Berlin interviewed a group of 24 men and women about their exercise habits, lifestyle, and their preferred activities. Their results quickly showed that enjoyment was a common factor amongst those who kept a regular exercise routine.
While the results are unsurprising, it raises an interesting question about how to put together a workout routine. Benjamin Wienke, the lead researcher from the study, comments that ‘training plans are based on sports science, rather than psychological factors’ - perhaps how much we enjoy an activity should be the first thing we think about before signing up to the gym.
Studies show that exercise improves mental wellbeing, so keep at it, don't give up!
Let us know if these help!