Like most things in life there is always a delicate balance that creates harmony and exercise is no different. The choice of exercises in a program needs to be carefully constructed to ensure that the body is given the right blend of nutrients. While it is true that any movement is better than inactivity, optimal planning of movements allows for maximum gains.
It is easy enough to see the link between the right exercises and our physical wellbeing, however most people are unaware of the effects of exercise choice on our moods. To understand this, we must think back to our infancy and the instinctive behaviours that we adopted well before we were aware of it!
Pushing and pulling
As a child, if we didn’t like something we tended to push the object away. In contrast when we liked an object we tried to pull it towards us. Small and simple habits such as these push and pull reflexes stay with us into adulthood and so too do the mood biases. Pulling motions have been shown to be associated with positive feelings, and pushing motions with negative feelings.
In fact, experiments conducted by psychologists have shown that these associations between pushing and pulling and their respective feelings have an impact on our problem solving and creative thinking. When given a series of tasks to complete involving both creativity and lateral thinking, participants who were asked to exert a pulling force at the same time scored significantly higher than those who were asked to push.
How does this impact on exercise? Should we stop pushing all together?
Like everything moderation is the key. Pushing tasks are important for activities of daily living such as using a shopping trolley and mowing the lawn. Exercises must be prescribed to balance out these instinctive mood associations with the practical strength required for healthy living.
What is the balance of pushing and pulling movements in your current exercise program?