A group of scientists has decreed that exercise is most pleasurable if you put the painful part in the middle.
In response, I’d like to suggest that they’re wrong — it’s far more pleasurable if you just stay at home on the couch.
That sounds like a joke, but I’m serious.
Science and fitness expert Katherine Hobson recently wrote an article for FiveThirtyEight, and cited several studies suggesting that people are more likely to repeat an exercise regimen if it feels easier at the end. That’s the memory they’re likely to take with them, according to the study results.
Therefore, getting people to exercise regularly is more likely if they’re not straining at the finish. So the studies were mostly about whether the toughest part of an exercise should be in the middle of a workout, or near the end.
HAH! The most difficult part is the beginning — as in, can you even force yourself to start.
This seems like a pretty important issue when starting a new year, since so many Americans have looked in the mirror and vowed to start working out.
The scientists Hobson interviewed didn’t bother to ask their subjects — both fit and obese — whether they really wanted to get going on the exercise bike or whatever regimen was chosen. No, the studies only considered whether to put the stressful part of a workout in the middle or near the finish.
“The good news is that the feel of exercise can be manipulated,” Hobson wrote. “Behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman and psychologist Barbara Fredrickson developed the ‘peak-end rule,’ which holds that people judge events not by the overall experience, but by some combination of how they feel at the most extreme part and at the end of the event.”
Bryan Janzen, a personal trainer at Peak Health & Wellness Center on Ironwood Drive in Coeur d’Alene, agreed that it might be easier to get people exercising regularly if they’re wrapping up a workout with a pleasant cool-down and series of stretches.
HOWEVER, Janzen conceded that getting started in the first place can be the toughest test of all — especially for folks who may struggle a bit. Heck, I used to run seven miles a day and was fit enough to run marathons, but there were times when I was desperate for an excuse to stay home. The hardest moment of any workout is actually lacing up your shoes.
So, does Janzen have a cure for the “not today” disease?
“There’s no question that it’s difficult to start when you know you’ll be pushing yourself,” Janzen said. “I think one good idea if you have trouble getting going is to find a friend who will do the workouts with you — or even a group.
“That makes you accountable. There is somebody counting on you to keep your bargain. A lot of people will force themselves to exercise because there are friends waiting on them.”
The good news, Janzen said, is that once you’ve gotten involved in a workout schedule, you’re bound to feel so much better — plus enjoying increased energy levels.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” he said, “and it’s there if you can start and keep going.”
But you’ve got to get out the door, so...
Go on, lace ‘em up.
Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.