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If you’ve ever given in to a not-so-wise shoe purchase while on a spending fast or taken a bite out of a delicious baguette while trying to test your gluten sensitivity, you’ve probably wondered if there’s a magic pill for increasing self-control. The answer is no, but research indicates that exercise could help.
For a recent study published in the journal Behavior Modification, researchers decided to take a closer look at what they had long suspected: that mastering something difficult, such as a strenuous workout routine, could lead to feelings of greater control in other areas of people’s lives. For the first part of the study, researchers had a very small sample size (just four people) take on a two-month walking and jogging regimen that they considered difficult. By the study’s end, three out of four participants had developed greater self-control.
Wanting a larger sample size, researchers decided to conduct a similar experiment on 12 women of different ages, fitness levels, and weights. Again, they found that the more exercise sessions these women attended, the greater their self-control. And these feelings of self-control didn’t just end with the exercise regimen: The self-control continued for a month after the experiment ended, even after they stopped exercising as much.
While this study is a small one, the results aren’t that surprising. Other recent research has found that running with a group makes it easier to quit smoking thanks to a combination of peer support, endorphins, reduced stress, and triumphant feelings of mastering something difficult.
Interested in increasing your self-control? Here’s how to get over food cravings and take control of your life.