How Exercise May Help With Self-Control

Runners may be ahead of the impulse control game, according to a new study.

Runners everywhere brace themselves for the temptation of the holidays, and try to juggle training plans with party plans. However athletes are already ahead of the impulse control game.

A new study published in Behavior Modification shows that regular exercise can not only improve your mood, self-esteem and body image, but may also help with impulse control.

Runners wake up most days and decide to run. Sometimes we’re forced out of a warm bed and into atrocious weather. But we still get up, get out and get it done. This is part of the reason why our self-control muscle is strong, according to the study.

Scientists call what runners do everyday “delayed discounting.” To put it in runner terms, we do something not so pleasurable now, such as running early in the morning, for the good feelings it will bring later. Anyone who has ever trained for a marathon knows this concept well!

The study was performed first on a small, four person group of sedentary men and women. It was later repeated on a larger group of 12. Both studies showed that with increased exercise, there was a direct correlation to an increase in the amount of delayed discounting the participants were willing to take.

Applying Self-Control To Everyday Decisions

How can you put your impulse control in running to use in real life? We’re glad you asked.

Plan ahead. Just like training for a race, make a plan of how you want to indulge. Then eat accordingly the rest of the day to allow for the extra calories. Nothing should be off limits, but you should also try to practice moderation.

Know who you are. You are the same person who conquered those hill repeats this morning, even when you wanted to quit. You can use that same determination to overcome whatever temptation you know will not serve your goals in the future.

Have a good memory. Think of a time in running or racing when you wanted to give up but persevered. What was the outcome? How did you feel afterward? How would that feeling changed had you given into the pain or taken the easy way out? Apply and repeat!


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