Making Exercise Easier After TBI
People who sustain a TBI often experience a period of hospitalization, muscle disuse, and/or depressed mood that can be helped by exercise. Physicians and physical therapists typically recommend daily walking at ever increasing distances, but this can pose challenges which include physical disability and lack of motivation. A new study in the journal Motivation and Emotion by Emily Balcetis and colleagues at NYU on the psychology of exercise demonstrates a way to stay motivated.
Balcetis did several experiments with two groups of walkers. One group was instructed to narrowly focus their attention on an object ahead of them as they walked toward it. The other group was instructed to let their attention wander naturally as they walked toward the same object. In all experiments those who “kept their eyes on the prize” did better. Why? When walking, staying focused on a specific target ahead can make the distance to it appear shorter and help people walk there faster. Balcetis said, “People are less interested in exercise if physical activity seems daunting, which can happen when distances to be walked appear quite long…..These findings indicate that narrowly focusing visual attention on a specific target, like a building a few blocks ahead, rather than looking around your surroundings, makes that distance appear shorter, helps you walk faster, and also makes exercising seem easier.”