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New Study Shows Exercise To Be Easier With A Visible Goal

Having goals has always been a huge part of weight loss, but a new study has proven that having a physical goal to set your sights on, might actually make exercise easier and more enjoyable. Research suggests that walking in particular, can become a much less daunting task when walkers have their sights on a target. This focus makes the distance being walked appear shorter and creates the illusion of a shorter walk. Daily Mail suggests: “The study, which compares this technique to walking while looking around the environment naturally, offers a new strategy to improve the quality of exercise. People are less interested in exercise if physical activity seems daunting, which can happen when distances to be walked appear quite long”

For those who don’t always enjoy a morning walk, jog, or run, this can be the difference between a failed attempt at getting out of the house, and the perfect pre-work workout.

Why These Statistics Are Making Waves

It’s never been that big of a secret that the majority of Americans and citizens worldwide can find something they don’t like about exercise, and for most this correlates with the time it takes to commit to a workout and stick with it versus the results that they won’t see for at least a few weeks. Assistant professor from New York University’s Department of Psychology, Emily Bacetis, one of the co-authors on the project has noted that people are far less likely to exercise if it seems like an intimidating task. For this reason, having something to focus on visually like a building in the distance or a turn in the road up ahead can give the distance a shorter appearance and make working out a much easier feeling activity. The study was published in the journal of Motivation and Emotion, and Shana Cole, another New York University Student, one who was in the doctoral program at the time that the study was conducted, but who now is an assistant professor at Rutgers University in the School of Arts and Sciences, along with an undergraduate student from New York University’s College of Arts and Science, Matthew Riccio, have made the hypothesis that the reason people enjoy walking more has to do with the attention drawn to a finish line of sorts and an increased walking speed which lessens feelings of anxiety and physical exertion during exercise. Medical News Today reports: “Related research previously conducted in Balcetis' lab and published last year found that people who are overweight see distances as farther than those who are average weight, especially when they are not very motivated to exercise.”

These findings relate directly to the number of people gaining weight across America and the world. Balcetis has been quoted in saying that there are more than 40 million children under five years of age, and over 1.4 billion adult humans who are obese across the world. In the United States the numbers of overweight citizens has nearly tripled in size. This makes this discovery even more important as it could lead many to try the newest approach and make walks and jogs less like work, and more like meeting a very determined goal.

What The Change In Focus Does For The Walker

The research team noticed that narrowing ones attention to a specific detail during the walk can actually change the perception on how long the distance being walked in. As mentioned above, overweight people tend to view distances travelled during exercise as being much farther than they are, while fit people see them as a shorter length. This narrowing of attention trick actually helps change distance for overweight people so that they are seeing similarly to fit people. The study was performed using two different experiments, one including 66 adults in a New York City park during the summer months. During the experiment, an open cooler with cold drinks was placed twelve feet away from participants, and each participant was asked to estimate the length of the distance from themselves to the cooler. Some people were asked to invasion a spotlight shining on the cooler to narrow their point of vision more directly; this kept them from looking around the park rather than focusing directly on the object being viewed. Other subjects were told to allow their line of vision to flit from object to object in the park naturally, so that they could find whatever they wanted to focus on to better estimate the distance of the cooler. The natural attention group, which allowed their attention to wander, saw the cooler as further away than those who focused directly on it alone.

Secondary Experiments On Walking

A second experiment had 73 different participants in a gymnasium who were made to walk 20 feet with ankle weights. The weights added another 15 percent of their body weight to their walk, making the activity less simple and slightly more uncomfortable. This test was used to see how the change in perceiving distance could improve the like or dislike of the workout process. One group focused on a traffic cone, giving them a clear finish line to reach, while the second set of participants used the same natural attention practice as above. They, instead, glanced at the cone, and then refocused on surroundings naturally to measure the distance being walked. The results mirrored the previous ones, showing that the team looking at the cones alone felt 28 percent closer than the natural attention participants, while the first group also walked 23 percent faster than the other team, and reported a more enjoyable experience overall.

How This Affects America And The World

With increasing rates of obesity still making a mark on society, it’s important to use these newly researched methods of physical activity to battle obesity and create a more healthy global community. The Times of India says: “The results confirmed the researchers' hypothesis that attentional narrowing changed perceptions of distance, speed of walking and perceived effort, said the study.”

This attention intervention method seems to be a stepping stone in the path to a healthy lifestyle, making exercise appear faster and easier, which changes one of the number one reasons why so many people avoid it. These strategies could improve workouts and even encourage some to participate more often in an effort to promote healthier living and move past the stage of being overweight. This method might best be used in schools and other programs that include young children and teach them about being physically fit.

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