PhotoMotivating yourself to take part in regular exercise can be difficult at times, and for some people it is nearly impossible. One endurance expert from the University of Kent claims that one way to help these “lazy” people is to use psychoactive drugs to help encourage healthier habits by altering perceived effort.

Evolved to be "lazy"

To be clear, the term “lazy” does not mean the same thing to Professor Samuele Marcora that it might mean to the average person. To him, being “lazy” is a matter of human evolution; he contends that one of the human race's evolutionary traits is that we strive to conserve energy.

This need to conserve energy would have come in very useful over the past couple thousand years. When humans were primarily hunters and gatherers, conserving your energy would have meant resting and saving your strength so that you could accomplish necessary tasks that were physically demanding – a crucial aspect of survival.

However, in this day and age when societal changes and modern technology have made it easier to survive, this intrinsic need to conserve energy can lead to a sedentary lifestyle. Because people, generally speaking, still have a need to conserve energy, it takes a lot to motivation to perform tasks that seem to involve a lot of effort.

This perception of effort, Marcora points out, is the reason why so many people choose to spend their leisure time doing something less physically demanding. Watching television, for example, may be one of the most widely popular activities because it requires almost no physical effort on the part of the watcher. Other healthier activities, like taking a walk or going to the gym, seem to involve a lot more effort by comparison.

Using psychoactive aids

Marcora argues that altering a person's perception of effort is one of the most beneficial way to get them to stick to a fitness plan. After all, if they do not feel that a healthy activity takes a lot of effort, then they may be more apt to make it a habit.

Marcora believes that using caffeine and other psychoactive drugs is the best way to accomplish this. The hope is that using these aids would give a person, who is otherwise physically inactive, the motivation to go take a walk or perform moderate exercise.

This stance has met with some contention, though. Marcora points out that many people have developed negative perceptions about this kind of therapy because there are parallels between it and doping in professional sports. However, he believes that using them to treat physical inactivity may be no different than therapies for other vices – like using drugs to help people quit smoking or treat obesity.

Marcora's full paper on the topic, “Can Doping be a Good Thing? Using Psychoactive Drugs to Facilitate Physical Activity Behaviour”, has been published in the journal Sports Medicine

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