Friday, March 21, 2014

Oddball goes mainstream

OK.  I’m an anomaly. 

It probably goes back to 7th grade.  I was the only girl in my gym class with a green romper. 

Oh yes, I’m in the romper set. 

Back in the Pleistocene Era junior high school was comprised of 7th, 8th and 9th grades.  And seventh grade constituted a giant step out of elementary school.  In those days every detail was extremely important to my skinny, self-conscious, adolescent self.  I was always on the edge of coolness.  Never quite there.
On the first day of class my PE teacher, the mustachioed Mrs. Himmler, gave us a list of required items for the year of humiliation, er, physical education ahead.  We needed sturdy white tennis shoes, cotton crew socks and either a green, a white or a blue romper. 

We had to go to Sears to buy our one-piece jump suits with snaps up the front and shorts.  My mom and I chose green.

All the other girls and their mothers chose blue.  All of them. 

The popular girls rolled up their shorts to make them even shorter.  I rolled mine up too in an effort.

They gave their crew socks an extra turn.  My knobby ankles stood out above that trend-setting roll like hard boiled eggs on stilts.

And my romper was green.  A tiny forested atoll on a blue, blue sea of coolness, I stood alone.

So, given my knack for juking left when the crowd goes right, it’s not a shock that I would be an outlier on the scatter graph of results from recent research out of the University of New Hampshire

A new study there shows that simply calling to mind any memory about exercise may be just what it takes to get a person into the gym and on her back in stretchy pants.  

According to a gleeful batch of lab geeks at UNH, this is the first study of its kind – exploring how memories of past exercise experiences can influence future workouts.
“This study underscores the power of memory’s directive influence in a new domain with practical applications: exercise behaviors.  These results provide the first experimental evidence that ‘autobiographical memory activation’ can be an effective tool in motivating individuals to adopt healthier lifestyles.”

Oh brother. 

In their zeal, UNH researchers asked 150 students to call up a memory that would increase their motivation to exercise; a control group was not asked to recall a motivational memory.  Then one week later the researchers surveyed the students to see if they reported an increase in exercise.

And by golly they found that students who remembered a positive exercise memory reported significantly higher levels of subsequent exercise than those who were not asked to recall a memory about exercise.  

No big whoop there.  Some people just love to sweat, and apparently those same people get a special thrill from thinking about their previous sweat-laden experiences.  Hey!  Let’s keep our minds on topic!  This is a family periodical – we’re talking about calisthenics! 

Here’s the kicker:  The research showed that students who recalled a negative exercise memory also reported exercising more than the control group!  

Now that’s just plain weird.  Based on that research and my long history of feeble attempts at athleticism, any red-blooded smock-donning clipboard-toting lab lizard might predict that I’d be thumping on the gym door every morning singing “Let’s get physical!  Physical!”

But no.  It hasn’t worked like that. 

Instead, my autobiographical memory activation has me lingering with my morning coffee over Words with Friends and circling the bed each afternoon for a healthy dose of nap time.

Of course, I haven’t been one to reminisce about exercise until now.  I rarely think of Mrs. Himmler and her whistle.  That green romper?  Buried deep, deep, deep!

I do have some pleasant memories of exercise…surely I do.  Something must have gone right somewhere along the way.  There was that cute guy in the boys’ gym class.

You know, now that I have plumbed the depths of my exercise recollections, oddly, I do feel a twinge.  It’s sort of a twitch.  An urge.

Maybe I am in the mainstream after all with my memory’s directive influence.  I think I have some sturdy shoes around here somewhere…Nah!

Ha!  Had you going for a minute there!