Positive memories of exercise spur future workouts

Getting motivated to exercise can be a challenge, but new research from the University of New Hampshire shows that simply remembering a positive memory about exercise may be just what it takes to get on the treadmill. This is the first study to explore how positive memories can influence future workouts.

"This study underscores the power of memory's directive influence in a new domain with practical applications: behaviors. These results provide the first experimental evidence that activation can be an effective tool in motivating individuals to adopt healthier lifestyles," researchers Mathew Biondolillo, a doctoral student in psychology at UNH, and David Pillemer, Dr. Samuel E. Paul Professor of Developmental Psychology at UNH wrote.

The new research is presented in the recent article "Using memories to motivate future behavior: An experimental exercise intervention," in the journal Memory.

The researchers examined the effects of remembering past exercise experience on college students' subsequent exercise intentions and behaviors. Researchers asked about 150 students to recall either a positive or negative memory that would increase their motivation to exercise; other students were not asked to recall a motivational memory (the ). The researchers then surveyed the students one week later to see if they reported an increase in exercise.

The researchers found that students who remembered a positive exercise memory reported significantly higher levels of subsequent exercise than those who were not asked to recall a memory about exercise. The researchers also found that who were asked to recall a negative exercise memory also reported exercising more than the control group, although less than the group that recalled a positive exercise memory.

"Without explicit direction or encouragement, our sample of , amidst the innumerable distractions afforded by life at a large, public university, increased their reported exercise activities from their habitual levels," the researchers said.

"From a public health perspective, identifying factors that can motivate individuals to engage in is vital," they said.


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Mar 18, 2014
Funny, all I can remember about Physical Exercise (PE) at school was how utterly futile it was...

Oh, yes, and the first time I met a vaulting horse, I flatly refused to use it because the thin landing mat was *obviously* in the wrong place. When five minutes of Coach's vituperation failed to changed my position, the next kid attacked the horse. He missed the mat, crash-landed, got concussion, had to go to hospital for an x-ray. My promised punishment was quietly waived...

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