Can you change your mind?

Virtually everyone struggles to stay motivated to exercise. (That includes athletes—people who get paid to exercise.) But at we also know that lots of us have really negative associations with being physically active. If we could turn that around—to feel about exercise the way we did when we were kids, when it wasn't "exercise" but just playing and having fun—we'd have a shot at doing it more, simply because it's more fun.

Now a study out of the University of New Hampshire is backing up that theory. Researchers there found that when the 150 college students in their study were asked to simply remember an experience with exercise in their past it made them more likely to work out in the future more often than they normally would. The scientists also included a control group that were not asked to recall a memory.

"The researchers 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," according to a press release from the University of New Hampshire. "The researchers also found that students who were asked to recall a negative exercise memory also reported exercising more than the control group, although less than the group that recalled a positive exercise memory."

Memory is a powerful force, we all know. Most of us have had an experience something like this: Something makes you remember, say, the taste of your mom's meatloaf or roasted potatoes. Within seconds you're craving that delicious flavor and then perhaps rooting around your kitchen for her recipe to make it for next Sunday's dinner. In other words, a positive memory led you to do something.

Similarly, if you recall only horrible, painful, embarrassing, boring, and simply awful memories of exercise, it's little surprise that what you'll expect—consciously or not—in the future is more of the same. But if we can, little by little, start to transform unpleasant associations into ones that are more enjoyable, it seems reasonable to expect that more of us will have a shot at liking exercise—and doing it more often.

Do you have very memorable experiences with exercise in your past—positive or negative?