Self-control is something we all admire and endeavor for. But when it comes to practice, collecting up all the willpower isn’t so easy. People try various approaches to strengthen their self-control; from meditation to making the most of the morning. But it turns out that there may be a notable connection between self-control and another healthy habit.
Self-control is one of those concepts that we all recognize and approve but do not necessarily practice. It requires prior things that induce us, which is not fun. On the other hand, lack of self-control can be consequential for health and well-being, often contributing to problems like weight gain, depression or money despairs.
A study published in Behavior Modification and highlighted in The New York Times finds that exercise might increase your self-control. While you’re strengthening your muscles, you’re also strengthening your willpower, making it more likely to avoid impulsive choices.
The study was limited, with only four participants, but three of the four developed significantly greater self-control after committing to an increased amount of exercise. The results were proportional: the more someone exercised, the greater the improvement in their self-control.
Researchers decided to take a closer look at what they had long assumed: that learning something difficult, such as a strenuous workout routine, could lead to feelings of greater control in other areas of people’s lives. For the first part of the study, researchers had a very small sample size (just four people) take on a two-month walking and jogging routine that they considered difficult. By the study’s end, three out of four participants had developed greater self-control.
For a larger sample size, researchers decided to conduct a similar experiment on 12 women of different ages, fitness levels, and weights. They found that the more exercise sessions these women attended, the greater their self-control.
These feelings of self-control didn’t just end with the exercise routine. The routine continued for a month after the experiment ended, even after they exercising as much.
Exercise also may have more intellectual psychological impacts on our sense of self-control, says Michael Sofis, a doctoral candidate in applied behavioral science at the University of Kansas. It is, for many of us, a concentrated form of delayed gratification.
Exerting ourselves during a workout is not always immediately pleasurable. But it can feel wonderful afterward to know that we managed to keep going, an impression that could spill over into later decision-making.
Do you think our regular exercise regimen helps us to develop our self-control? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section down below!