Is This the Key to Self-Control?

Amanda MacMillan

Gourmet, Romulo YanesGourmet, Romulo YanesSelf-control is a big part of living a healthy and balanced life: It helps us resist that second slice of cake, steer clear of Pinterest when we're supposed to be working, and not throw a major hissy fit when that romantic date night we're so looking forward to morphs into guys' night with beers and college basketball. (All hypotheticals, duh.)


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That doesn't make self-control any easier to maintain, though, especially in the face of daily temptations that threaten to derail our diets, our productivity and our emotional well-being. But a new study suggests that there may be a quick fix -- and I do mean quick -- to boosting our levels of self-control.

The fix? Exercise. Specifically, short bouts of exercise: anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes showed promise in a new analysis published online today in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Dutch researchers found that short bursts of activity seemed to improve self-control and inhibition in study participants ages 6 to 35 -- possibly because of improved blood and oxygen flow to the pre-frontal areas of the brain, the site of these "executive" functions. (They also looked at the broader effects of regular exercise over time, but couldn't find the same types of benefits.)

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The study suggests that exercise may be helpful in treating conditions such as ADHD and dementia. But lead author Lot Verburgh believes it should help with more everyday challenges, as well. "Short exercise bouts enhance self control in young adults, which should result in better self control in all kinds of aspects of daily life -- such as impulsiveness in diet choices and behavior toward other people," she told SELF.

So there you have it: Next time the vending machine beckons or a snarky coworker is just begging for an argument, hightail it to the gym -- or heck, even just the stairwell -- instead. Science says it'll make you stronger, physically and mentally.

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