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Want to exercise but can't get off the couch? Study says our brains are wired to be lazy

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VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Laying on the couch is too easy, getting to the gym is a struggle.

Sound like you?

“The population is actually becoming more inactive,” says Matt Boisgontier.

The University of British Columbia researcher and his team began observing us, and our habits when it comes to exercise. They noticed we all made some an effort to exercise.

“We saw pictures of people on the internet going to the gym and they were taking the escalator,” Boisgontier tells KOMO. “There is a problem because this doesn’t make sense.”

Or does it?

Matt and his team began studying our exercise habits closer, and found it’s not that we don’t want to work out. Many of us make conscious decisions to get some exercise. The problem comes in the execution of those decisions.

To prove this, the team sat volunteers in front of a screen, and showed them images like a guy in a hammock, then a woman lifting weights. For each picture, the test subject was to move the mouse closer to activities they should be doing, and away from activities they shouldn’t.

“They were faster at avoiding sedentary behaviors, and they were faster at approaching physical activity. That is perfect,” he says.

In other words, their clear intention was to exercise, but in real life, they just didn't follow through. Using electrodes, Boisgontier traced brain activity.

The conclusion: Our brains may be hard-wired for physical inactivity. That means we have to push ourselves BIG TIME to actually follow through and get some exercise.

Being able to prove this in the lab is actually a breakthrough, because after some more studies, Matt says the next step is clear.

“We’ll try to see what we can do to help people, to re-train them to have different automatic responses in their brain.”

An interesting conclusion: Public health campaign after campaign aimed at getting us to exercise may be falling on deaf ears...or lazy brains. We all have the intention to work out, but there actually could be something in our brain keeping us from following through.

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