New research conducted by researchers at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada suggests that thinner people are more motivated to exercise than their heavier peers.
In a study initially devised to determine how much rats are willing to pay for an opportunity to exercise, the researchers found that slimmer rats were more motivated to work out than their larger peers. In addition, the more weight the rat lost, the more motivated it was to hop on the wheel, so much so that some of the rats in the study quite literally exercised and starved themselves to death (a phenomenon that also occurs in our society in the form of activity- or exercise-anorexia).
Noting that these findings run counter to the widely-held belief that people are motivated to exercise in order to lose weight, lead researcher Terry Belke suggests that “as our body weight goes down, our motivation to run goes up and presumably the rewarding aspects of running tend to also go up.” Based on this theory, he surmises that “the strongest and most powerful determinant of our motivation to run is body weight.”
Circling back to examine the reasons why the rats were motivated to run, Belke notes that it may stem from situations in nature whereby food becomes unavailable and an individual might be forced to become active and relocate in order to increase its odds for survival. However, he notes that in today’s human society, it is “a mechanism that is backfiring” since tracking down food can be as easy as picking up a phone and ordering from a take-out menu!
Speaking to how these study findings translate to our society’s overweight population, he notes that “being socially and cognitively motivated might be enough to get you out and buy a gym membership or a piece of exercise equipment, but unless your physiology is essentially supporting and sustaining that, you may not be able to maintain the exercise.”
While we can all attest to the fact that seeing our workouts pay off – whether this is in terms of inches lost, strength gains, or simply perfecting that pull-up – is certainly motivating, it’s interesting to see just how much it has to do with our long-term commitment to exercise!
Furthermore, it’s kind of comforting to know that even members of the rat community worry about looking a little lardy on the treadmill!
What do you make of this study? Hit us up with a comment!
Grace Fell Flickr Photo (CC)