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Why Your Brain Doesn’t Want You To Exercise Hard

Why Your Brain Doesn't Want You To Push Hard

We’ve all been there before – your training plan for the day, your coach, your personal trainer or whatever routine you are following calls for a tough exercise session – but you’re just too mentally exhausted to workout. Perhaps you had a stressful day at work, a tough day with the kids or too many exhausting mental tasks to handle. Maybe you actually do make it to your workout, but your thinking is so fuzzy and your brain is so tired that all you can do is slog away junk mileage on the treadmill or bike, or swim lazy laps in the pools.

This lack of motivation isn’t a figment of your imagination.

Studies have actually shown that the type of exhaustion that accompanies difficult mental tasks (i.e. a hard day at work) can indeed decrease exercise motivation and performance. This problem can be compounded if the neurons in your brain are sluggishly transmitting signals due to fatty acid deficiencies; your motivating neurotransmitters like dopamine and glutamate are low due to underproduction of a compound called acetylcholine, or your mind is simply not trained to handle complex tasks.

For example, the recent research entitled “Drive in Sports: How Mental Fatigue Affects Endurance Performance,” highlights the issue as follows:

“Performance in endurance sports relies on athletes’ drive, which is the sum of all factors pushing athletes to exert effort during exercise. Mental fatigue can influence endurance performance by decreasing athletes’ drive to exercise. From a psychological point of view, mental fatigue has two separate components: it can affect drive by increasing the perceived effort necessary for a given task (“I cannot do this, I am too exhausted”), or by decreasing the perceived value of the reward that can be obtained (“I do not want to do this, it is not worth it”). Neurophysiological theories confirm this dual nature of mental fatigue. It is suggested that mental fatigue can activate the inhibition centers of the brain, increasing perceived effort for a given task, hence decreasing drive and willingness to act. On the other hand, it may also deactivate facilitative brain centers (normally responsible for motivated behavior and increased drive toward a reward), also resulting in decreased drive.”

Another research review entitled “Prior Acute Mental Exertion in Exercise and Sport” points out that:

“Mental exertion is a psychophysiological state caused by sustained and prolonged cognitive activity. The understanding of the possible effects of acute mental exertion on physical performance, and their physiological and psychological responses are of great importance for the performance of different occupations, such as military, construction workers, athletes (professional or recreational) or simply practicing regular exercise, since these occupations often combine physical and mental tasks while performing their activities. However, the effects of implementation of a cognitive task on responses to aerobic exercise and sports are poorly understood. Our narrative review aims to provide information on the current research related to the effects of prior acute mental fatigue on physical performance and their physiological and psychological responses associated with exercise and sports.“

This review concluded that prior acute mental exertion affects effectively the physiological and psychophysiological responses during the cognitive task, and performance in exercise.

But the good news is that by using practical lifestyle tips, supplements, and brain training, you can hack your mind to not only become smarter, but also to improve exercise motivation. In this article, you’ll learn about how to get your brain to operate at peak efficiency so that you can not only get yourself out to the door to exercise, but also compete at peak mental efficiency.