Why does someone happily go to the gym three times a week, dance to upbeat music and walk the necessary ten thousand steps every day, while someone has trouble even getting up from the couch? It’s not always about iron willpower and sportsmanship – it’s just that some people enjoy moving, while others don’t.
Where Children Get So Much Energy
If you have experience with children, you probably noticed how much joy they bring simple catch-up, jumping rope and conquering forts on the playground. Children tend to really love active games, and in general, it’s difficult for them to sit still. Besides being fun, such games have deep evolutionary meaning and are sponsored by the reward system in the brain.
Our brains are designed so that we enjoy learning new movements. Brain structures such as the cerebellum and basal ganglia, teamed with dopamine encourage physical activity, rewarding us for the right foot, the right muscle tension, and the accomplishment of an intended movement. This happens at a young age, when we are just learning to ride a bicycle, tie our shoelaces, and climb trees. Novelty and success in executing the movement is the secret.
Learning different movements has been vital to humans for many years of evolution. Moving fast is important for running away from enemies. Performing coordinated movements is necessary to make and use tools. Fine motor skills come in handy for picking fruits and berries, mastering cave painting, and more. Moreover, motor skills are important for various programs in the brain, such as exploring the terrain, defending territory, fighting for leadership and a partner – to be successful, you have to move a lot. We don’t need them when we work at our desks, try it on 20Bet, or study. And these activities are more important to a modern person than the others.
What Went Wrong?
As we age, when we have already mastered a basic set of motor skills to survive in the modern world (walking up stairs, running for the bus, dancing at corporate events), the program of learning movements embedded in the brain reduces its activity, because it can be said to have already completed its main task. Instead, it activates the program of saving resources. No less evolutionarily important: in pre-supermarket times, energy was not so easily obtained. Besides, it was worth saving for emergencies, such as sudden attacks by enemies, periods of starvation or illness. In the adult brain, the “internal politics” (the leading program) change, and with it the priorities: there is no point in encouraging aimless jumps and movements when they are already honed, because they waste precious energy.
“I Want” and “I Must”
However, the mobile lifestyle of our ancestors did not allow them to have excess weight or atrophied muscles. The modern man sometimes gets such “bonuses” and tries to get rid of them by buying a gym membership. The first few days we take ourselves in hand, actively exercising and steadily visualizing abs cubes and shapely legs. And then these images stop motivating us and the number of hours in the gym sharply decreases. This is not because there is something wrong with us, but because these are the mechanisms of motivation.
There are two main types of motivation:
- Extrinsic motivation – some kind of goal for which an action is performed. It may be unpleasant, but it’s done to achieve the desired goal. When you go to the hated Pump for round buttocks, you are following external motivation.
- Intrinsic motivation is the action for the sake of the action itself: you do something because you like it. If you go out for a run in the morning because you want to cheer up, get some fresh morning air and get an energy boost for the whole day – you are following intrinsic motivation.
Researchers at the University of Rochester compared two groups of people who went to the gym. People in the first group were intrinsically motivated – they wanted to improve their physical fitness. People in the second group just enjoyed exercising, wanted to learn new things and liked overcoming challenges – they were intrinsically motivated. The study showed that people in the second group were more likely to come to the gym, rated their progress higher and were generally more satisfied with their workouts. Moreover, people in the second group continue to work out after the “summer training season” is over. Intrinsic motivation and enjoyment of exercise is the key to playing the game long term.
Leave a Reply