This Is Why Your Brain Doesn’t Want To Work Out

Are you struggling to stick to your fitness goals, despite your best intentions? Well, here’s a shocking truth: your brain may be secretly sabotaging your progress. Yes, that’s right. New research reveals that the very thing that controls your thoughts, emotions, and actions is working against you when it comes to exercising.

Are you tired of fighting your own mind in your quest for a fitter lifestyle? Discover the surprising ways your brain is holding you back, and more importantly, how you can crush it.

Let’s dive into the fascinating science behind why our brains resist exercise. Why does it naturally avoid the very thing that’s good for us? Let’s explore the techniques to use to outsmart your mind and unlock your full fitness potential.

Medical disclosure: The Fit Yourself Barre content is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of a physician. You should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.

Read the related article “This is why your brain needs to see water.”

Why Your Brain Never Wants To Exercise


Why does it seem like your brain wants to keep you from exercising? It may go all the way back to when humans had to survive. Economizing their physical energy helped our ancestors to find food, shelter, and mates, and also kept them from becoming prey.

The Science Behind Your Brain’s Natural Inclination To Avoid Exercise

In fact, the natural opposition of your brain is due to a complex interplay of psychological and physiological factors.

In 2018, a new scientific study in the journal Neuropsychologia concluded that the mind is clearly more attracted to passive activity.

Participants had to look at pictures of physical activity and inactivity while measuring their mental activity. The volunteers had to also move their on-screen avatars towards the active images as fast as possible in one test, and then do the same with inactive ones in another test.

Though the participants moved quicker toward the active photos, they on the other hand used more brain activity to move away from the inactive ones.

Primarily, the research shows that the brain finds it harder to break away from the idea of being inactive.

Here Are The Reasons Why The Brain Wants To Be Lazy

1. On an evolutionary level

Our brains are wired for survival. We get this from our ancestors, who had to conserve energy to stay alive and be able to achieve their immediate goals. They had to do things like hunt for food and run away from predators and danger. This innate survival instinct is still part of us today. It makes us not want to do things that require a lot of physical effort.

2. On a physiological level

  • The brain is like a control center that manages how much food our bodies take in. It monitors how much energy we use. It makes sure our energy stays balanced. When we do intense physical activity, it sees it as a danger to this balance. So it adjusts what we need.
  • The brain sends out special chemicals (neurotransmitters) called dopamine and serotonin when we do something fun, like eating yummy food or taking it easy. But it doesn’t do this when we work out. This means exercise doesn’t give us the same feeling of pleasure right away, making it more likely to be skipped.
  • Plus, our brains are inherently built to look for instant rewards. It shies away from anything that might cause discomfort or pain. Exercise doesn’t usually bring immediate satisfaction. This can be hard because our minds like short-term benefits more, which makes it difficult to stick with exercise.

Now you know why it is tough to stick with a consistent workout routine. Our brain and body add barriers that can make it tricky. But we can learn strategies to help us break through our brain’s resistance to move.

How To Trick Your Brain Into Embracing Physical Activity

Here are 4 tips to reprogram your mind to desire to work out

When it comes to exercise, our brains usually try to find the easy way out. It’s not uncommon to find ourselves making excuses, procrastinating, or simply lacking the motivation to get moving. But what if we could train our minds to actually embrace exercise?

1. Do activities you really enjoy

Our brain craves pleasure and avoids pain. The key lies in reprogramming our minds to associate physical activity with positive experiences. Instead of viewing exercise as a punishment for our bodies, we can focus on the long-term benefits it brings. By finding activities that we genuinely enjoy, such as dancing, swimming, or hiking, we can tap into the brain’s pleasure centers and create positive associations with movement.

2. Set possible goals

Our brain loves rewards. Setting achievable goals is another crucial aspect of fooling our brains into liking exercising. Rather than aiming for unrealistic expectations or comparing ourselves to others, we should break down our fitness goals into smaller, attainable milestones. This not only boosts our confidence but also gives our minds a sense of satisfaction. It reinforces the positive connection between our brain and exercise.

3. Celebrate small victories

Celebrating all our successes, no matter how small, helps our minds learn to like exercise. If you do a tough workout, set a personal best, or keep up with your routine, it’s worth praising. When we compliment ourselves for these triumphs, we’re teaching our brains that exercise can be good fun.

4. Seek social support

Incorporating social support can help motivate us to exercise. Surrounding ourselves with like-minded individuals who share our fitness goals can give us feelings of accountability, encouragement, and friendship. Join a group fitness class, find an exercise buddy, or join an online fitness community. Our brain is designed to need connection and belonging, so by using social interactions, we can make ourselves want to exercise.

Read the related article “How to stay self-motivated to work out|Best 9 tips!”

Bottom Line

What a relief to find out that I am hard-wired to be lazy! It is the fault of my brain after all… However, exercise is good for me!

As a wrap-up, remember that taking charge of your health starts with training your brain. It is not an overnight process! But with perseverance, it is entirely achievable. By cheating our minds into associating exercise with happiness, we can gradually transform our mindset towards fitness. Once we unlock this desire within ourselves, we open the door to an enjoyable wellness journey.

So, let’s take action today and rewire our brains for a healthier, happier future.

Read the related article “New VILPA results: How can 1-min physical activity bouts prolong your life?”

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  1. Hi there! 🏋️‍♀️

    This is such an eye-opening post, Anne-Caroline! It’s intriguing to learn about the natural resistance our brains have towards exercise, and how it ties back to our ancestors’ survival instincts.

    I’m curious, what strategies have you personally found effective in reprogramming your brain to embrace physical activity? Have you discovered any specific exercises or routines that make it more enjoyable for you? 🤔

    Your tips on finding activities we genuinely enjoy and setting achievable goals are great steps toward making exercise a part of our daily lives. Looking forward to your insights! 💪😊

    1. Anne-Caroline says:

      Hello Hanna,

      yes, I have found activities that I really enjoy like walking. I also trick my brain into starting a 5-minute workout and I end up exercising for 30 minutes… I also do VILPA bouts throughout the day.

      Read my fascinating article about the new research about VILPA here “New VILPA Results | How Can 1 Min Physical Activity Bouts Prolong Your Life”

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Michel Maling says:

    This was a wonderful look at why the brain doesn’t want to work out, and it makes sense that it is trying to conserve our energy for us like it had to for our ancestors. 

    Doing activities you really enjoy that are active will really help in this department and also giving yourself rewards for goals met does also help a lot in the quest to try to retrain our brains to actually enjoy doing exercise.

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