Health is often on the minds of most people during the first day of the week, but why is it so insanely hard to get motivated to work out come Monday?
Believe it or not, your pleasure hormones could be behind the reason why your Monday workout motivation is so dang hard to find.
The Secret to Monday Workout Motivation: Dopamine
Dopamine is a chemical messenger that helps the brain and body communicate.
It’s also called the “pleasure hormone” because of its important role in how we experience reward, motivation, attention, and memory.
In a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, researchers sought to find out why obese people or animals seemed to struggle so much to stay active.
It’s common to assume that trying to move with excess weight is more physically demanding and uncomfortable, but the researchers suspected there was more going on in the brain that influenced such behaviour.
Two groups of mice were observed by researchers.
One group was fed a high-fat diet, and the other was fed a regular diet for a period of 18 weeks.
The mice that were fed the high-fat diet had already gained weight by the second week — and they showed less movement long before they gained the majority of their weight.
Since the high-fat group exhibited less movement early on in the study, excess weight alone was likely not the only factor at play.
When the researchers examined several different parts of the dopamine pathway in the mice, they found that the high-fat group of mice that had gained weight were deficient in the D2-type (D2R) dopamine receptor.
Feelings of reward are triggered by dopamine receptors in the striatum, which causes the brain to want more.
This helps to explain how any kind of good habit — like exercise — or bad habit — like detrimental addictions — can become so deeply ingrained into our lifestyles.
The More Sedentary You Are, the Harder It Is to Get Motivated to Work Out
In addition to looking at the dopamine pathway, the researchers also investigated how sedentary behaviour was connected to weight gain.
Mice with normal weights that had the same D2 dopamine receptor defect didn’t gain weight as quickly on a high-fat diet, but did once they started moving less.
Other factors are likely involved in addition to the D2 dopamine receptor defect, but the researchers point out that most people focus on mental willpower to change their lifestyle habits.
Given that the study’s findings suggest that physical components have an impact, willpower alone may not be enough.
So if you find yourself struggling with your Monday workout motivation at the beginning of almost every week, should you give up?
No, but you should probably look at your weekend habits and consider change your current regimen — especially if you find that you try to hit it hard at the beginning of the week and then lose all motivation to sedentary behaviour by the weekend.
Instead, consider scaling it back a bit so that you’re not trying to maintain a routine that’s overly ambitious throughout the whole week.
Rewire Your Dopamine Receptors for Monday Workout Motivation and Motivation for the Whole Week
Dopamine receptors in your brain can actually be rewired to obtain that rewarding feeling from exercise thanks to their malleability.
The key to rewiring your brain for exercise is taking small — perhaps very small — doable steps that you can stick with over a longer period of time.
Take a look at the current exercise goals you’ve set for yourself, and be honest about what you just don’t enjoy.
Whether it’s the intensity, the type of activity, the length of time you have to do it or anything else, experiment with changing some of those components so that you don’t feel like you’re resisting them so much.
It’s not new and shiny advice, but the trick to making exercise a part of your lifestyle is doing something that doesn’t feel like torture.
Eventually, over a longer period of time where you slowly but continuously improve your exercise routine, what you used to think was torture may actually be your new favourite form of physical activity.
Not sure where to start?
Here are some great suggestions and corresponding blog posts:
4-Minute Tabata Training Workout: This extremely quick and intense form of HIIT is scientifically linked to being more enjoyable than less intense forms of exercise.
Leisure Walking for 1 Hour a Day: It might take longer, but it’s one of the easiest forms of low-intensity exercise that can help to balance your hormones naturally and aid in weight loss over the long run.
10-Minute Ab Workout: Add this quick but effective ab routine at the end of your regular workout or after a brief warm-up to help tone your entire midsection.
10-Minute Yoga Sun Salutiation Sequence Workout: Make this workout as easy or as intense as you want it by going slow or fast.
Take Advantage of the Warmer Summer Months: Use the natural high-energy season of summer to feed your workout motivation and even take your workouts outside.