True or false: It’s important to create a fitness plan that actually works.
Everyone wants to get in shape and exercise regularly. So how come only 5% of people actually do it?
It’s almost shocking, when you consider the sensible strategy most people use to launch a new exercise regimen:
- Google ‘fitness’
- Create perfect fitness plan
- Buy gym membership
- Load up on fitness gear
- Start exercising
If you’re like most people, you ace steps 1-4 and stop at 5. Does this mean you’re lazy? No. (Well, yes, actually, but it’s not your fault.)
It’s just the way our brains work. Martin Lindstrom, author of Buyology, can explain.
People are fundamentally emotional creatures, Lindstrom says. Our actions are 85% driven by our subconscious mind.
The five-step strategy above? It’s really just a piece of your rock-solid fitness puzzle. An absurdly small piece—Lindstrom would say about 15%.
The same concept crops up in the advertising world, where market research is typically 100% focused on logical, conscious consumer decisions. The result: Up to 95% of product launches fail.
We take a similar logical approach to a new workout regimen. And the number of failed fitness plan launches is probably about the same—95%.
They’re failing to sell us Ab Coasters.
We’re failing to sell ourselves fitness.
And both, according to these findings, could be remedied by one thing: mirror neurons.
Catching a Six-Pack
I have a new roommate. She’s buff. She’s driven. And she can be found daily in the hallway, strapping on heavy-duty ankle weights (come rain or April Utah snow) to walk her dog Bubba.
Call it coincidence, but I’ve started walking Greta every day too.
(I’ve also started trying to mimic said roommate’s cooking, but that’s another story.)
Back to mirror neurons. First observed in monkeys, there’s a phenomenon whereby when we observe certain actions, our brain mirrors them. Neurons fire the same way when we’re watching the action as if we were performing it ourselves. The ensuing result: we’re often driven to actually repeat the same behavior.
Ever taken a trip to London and mysteriously come home with an English accent? Mirror neurons.
Ever see an ad full of people smiling, and suddenly you’re shopping for a pair of Banana Republic chinos? Mirror neurons.
We unwittingly imitate other people’s behavior—especially when there are positive emotions, such as happiness, involved. That’s why sometimes just seeing something over and over makes it more desirable, Lindstrom says.
It all happens subconsciously, it’s extremely powerful, and it has a new application: trick yourself into exercising.
Piggybacking on Exercise Enthusiasm
If seeing others having fun is all it takes to make us buy taupe-colored pants, seeing others enjoying exercise, well, it could be enough to completely change your attitude about the task.
Case in point: the Zumba brand. Genius. Literally half the world joined that party.
If you’re feeling particularly unexcited about fitness, the gym could be a great place to cop someone else’s exercise mojo. Especially if, at home, the rest of the family is enjoying leisure activities.
Or, if you prefer to work out at home, you could poster your home gym with pictures of people enjoying a good sweat (or at least looking particularly attractive while handling a barbell).
As we’ve seen, one good move is all it takes to get the exercise ball rolling. And now we know—hallelujah—that it can be someone else’s good move.
So go forth and find a gym rat. Thanks to mirror neurons, in no time, you’ll be equally stoked about working out.
A word of warning: do not visit Central Park unless you’re prepared to invest in a pair of roller skates.
More ways to trick yourself into exercising:
- Find Your Exercise Personality Type
- The Hip-Hop Guide to Pimping Your Workouts
- Flavilicious Fitness and the Five Big Fat Female Fitness Myths