Updated: Feb 23
What if there was a medicine that could reverse the aging process in the body and the brain?
A drug that builds back lean muscle while burning visceral fat. That also stimulates release of “feel good” brain chemicals like endorphins and serotonin while regulating stress hormones like cortisol? And what if it could protect your DNA at cellular level and reduces inflammation.
Would you take it? Every day? Turns out there is. We call that medicine “physical exercise.”
So why don’t we all exercise? It really just comes down to the motivational triad.
What’s that you say? I’m glad you asked.
The motivational triad is a popular construct for describing how our primitive brains work. Our basic animal instincts drive us to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and conserve energy.
So you can see how exercise may actually go against our natural animal instincts. For most of human evolutionary history, movement was simply part of what we did every day to survive, whether it was hunting and gathering or tending the crops.
The problem is that we all tend to spend way too much time attached to a screen in some form these days, which means sitting or staying still for too long.
Hacking the triad
Fortunately our beautiful human brains also have higher level parts like the prefrontal cortex that can help us to figure things out.
This first step is figuring out why you want to move. Do you care about any of the health benefits listed above?
Everyone will be different, so don’t be judging yourself if you don’t feel motivated by health benefits. May you want to look better, or feel better. That’s totally okay.
The next question is how can I make it fun or pleasurable? This will be different for everyone, and may require some trial and error to see what works. Like maybe doing it with a friend or a social/group component would be fun.
Our beautiful human brains have parts like the prefrontal cortex that help us figure things out
Or maybe a certain kind of music or entertainment would make you smile. Or may you just like the idea of learning something new.
Minimum baseline protocol
So next we want to look at the “avoid pain” and “conserve energy” components of the triad. Like do you think will get in the way of you doing it and how do we solve for that?
For example, you might want to wake up at 530am to drive across town to do a gym class with an uber personal trainer your friend recommends. But if you are just
getting started, it might actually be easier or more realistic to start with a 15 minute walk or online program so that it’s as easy and convenient as possible.
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear discusses starting small and doable actions that can pay off with huge impact through the magic of compounding. It’s often hardest to get that tiny snowball rolling with a small change in habit, but once it’s rolling that snowball starts to take on a life of its own.
Consider what would be a minimum baseline protocol for yourself when it comes to movement. Every little bit counts.