For anyone struggling to keep the New Year Resolution to 'Do More Exercise' science shows a solution could be found in a simple cup of coffee.
In a paper published this month in the scientific journal Sports Medicine, Professor Samuele Marcora, a University of Kent endurance expert, suggests the use of caffeine could help people stick to their fitness plans.
Responding to the findings that the majority of people give up their resolution to do more exercise within the first 6 months, Professor Marcora, Director of Research at the University's School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, said his research could provide a solution.
Professor Marcora suggests that reducing perception of effort during exercise using caffeine (or other psychoactive drugs like methylphenidate and modafinil) could help the many people who find difficult to stick to their fitness plans.
Together with lack of time, physical exertion is one of the main perceived barriers to exercise, which is natural as humans evolved to effectively conserve energy. This inherent 'laziness' means that sustaining exercise in the long term is very difficult even when people are still motivated to improve their health and fitness as when they started.
Professor Marcora points out that perception of effort is one of the main reasons why most people choose sedentary activities for their leisure time. Compared to watching television (zero effort), even moderate-intensity physical activities like walking require considerable effort. He says that the use of caffeine or other psychoactive drugs to reduce perception of effort during exercise can make the healthy choice easier.
He also states that whilst there is no strong ethical opposition to the use of psychoactive drugs to help quit smoking (nicotine) or treat obesity (appetite suppressants), the negative perception of doping in sport may prevent the use of stimulants and other psychoactive drugs to treat physical inactivity which is responsible for twice as many deaths as obesity.
Professor Samuele Marcora is Director of Research at the University of Kent's School of Sport and Exercise Sciences. His paper 'Can Doping be a Good Thing? Using Psychoactive Drugs to Facilitate Physical Activity Behaviour' was published online in the journal Sports Medicine last October and in print this month.
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Notes to editors
Established in 1965, the University of Kent – the UK's European university – now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.
It has been ranked: third for overall student satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey; 16th in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.
In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook.
Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.
Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium.