Exercise is good for you, we all know that. And yet, 80 percent of Americans don’t get the recommended amount, with adverse effects on physical and mental heath. We know that we should, we can exercise practically everywhere….so why don’t we?
Well, apart from the lack of time due to jam-packed daily schedules, the most powerful personal barrier to exercise is physical exertion, Professor Samuele Marcora believes. From a biological standpoint, we as a species evolved to conserve energy — evolution made you lazy. He suggests that reducing the perceived effort of exercise through the use of caffeine or other psychoactive drugs (methylphenidate and modafinil for example) might help people overcome this biological barrier and stick to their workout plan.
Drastic? Sure. Controversial? No doubt. The Professor himself understands that it’s more of a band-aid than a cure but points out to the fact that the perception of effort is the main reason why people choose sedentary activities during their leisure time. When you compare watching TV to even moderate physical intensity activities such as walking, it’s easy to guess which would be preferred if you take this biological laziness into account.
Marcora says that there is no strong ethical opposition to the use of psychoactive drugs in other fields — they’re taken to help smokers quit (nicotine patches) or treat obesity (appetite suppressants). He believes that the negative perception of doping in sport events is what causes people to view his suggested use for drugs during exercise as outrageous.
On the flip side, if it helps people exercise, is it wrong? Physical inactivity is responsible for twice as many deaths as drug-related incidents, and a reduction in perceived effort would allow many of those who find exercise difficult physically or turn in from work in a state of mental fatigue exercise.
Professor Marcora hopes that psychopharmacological treatment for physical inactivity will be given fair and serious consideration rather than immediately rejected on unrelated ethical considerations about doping in sport.