Studying Too Hard Could Hurt Your Workouts (but It's Not an Excuse to Stop Studying, BTW!)

by Lexi Petronis

Gray ReginaldGray ReginaldWhen your body is overtired, you know it--and it makes exercise that much more challenging to deal with. But new research shows that if your brain is overtired, it may make working out harder too, no matter how energized your body may be.

The new study, by scientists from the University of Kent in England and the French Institute of Health and Medical Research, found that too much thinking leads to a kind of fatigue that makes your body tired and subsequent workouts shorter and more exhausting.

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The research involved putting volunteers through a 90-minute computer test, where they watched letters flash by, counted them, and had to punch various keys--the test is known to induce mental fatigue, and, honestly, even writing about it is making me yawn. The volunteers also watched a relaxing 90-minute movie called Earth. After each event, the participants exercised at a specialized one-legged ergometer to the point of muscular exhaustion.

After doing the computer test, the participants ended up getting tired about 13 percent faster than after watching Earth; they also said that the post-computer exercising felt way worse. Which essentially means, according to researchers, that exercise simply feels harder when your brain is tired-so you end up quitting earlier, even though your body is still raring to go. (Pretty sure I experienced exactly this with today's less-than-awesome workout. Moving on.)

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The researchers also say that these results may have interesting implications for how we deal with our thinking processes. For example, let's say you're able to train yourself to study for that test or figure out that work proposal more quickly and effectively. Maybe then you'll be able to send messages to your muscles that they're not actually tired at all.

Have you ever noticed anything like this--tired brain, tired body? How do you handle it when it comes to working out?

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