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We may be hardwired to do nothing, but your laziness is still your fault

Posted October 2, 2018

Scientists and doctors are constantly encouraging people to be more active. Working out is good for us and it can be a lot of fun. However, despite these efforts we are actually becoming less active. Why are we so lazy? If it is beneficial for our health, shouldn‘t we crave for physical activity? Scientists from the University of British Columbia say that laziness may actually be our natural state.

Laziness may be natural, because our ancestors had to conserve energy. Image credit: ReubenInStt via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Think about it – people definitely were more physically active long time ago. They were working around farms, building houses, gardening, preparing themselves for the potential war. Today we are not that active, because our jobs do not require that and our world caters to our laziness. But there is another thing – humans naturally evolved to conserve energy. Success in the primordial world did not depend on being more active. Instead, you had to be efficient in order to survive, protect your land, family and raise children. Humans were only moving when they had to.

Scientists have suspected that exercising may not be a natural activity, which may be why these campaigns failed. It could be that we are just hardwired for laziness. To find out scientists devised a simple experiment. Young adults had to sit in front of a computer, which flashed small images depicting either physical activity or physical inactivity. Participants were controlling a small avatar with a task of running away from symbols marking inactivity and catching those marking activities or vice versa. Of course, during this exercise their brain was monitored using electrodes. Participants were quicker to run away from laziness and towards activity, but this task required brains to work harder.

These findings confirm previous studies, showing that people are quick to avoid sedentary behaviours and move toward active behaviours. However, this new study shows that this extra speed requires more brain power. In other words, it is difficult not to be lazy, because it takes more effort to make that kind of decision. Matthieu Boisgontier, lead author of the study, said: “Anything that happens automatically is difficult to inhibit, even if you want to, because you don’t know that it is happening. But knowing that it is happening is an important first step”.

This means that even though it may be natural to stay lazy, you should still avoid it. You know the consequences and you don’t need to save energy for greater efficiency. You should just start exercising and eventually that will reprogram your brain.


Source: University of British Columbia

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