Extreme physical challenges can help office workers deal with the impact of a sedentary lifestyle, say researchers.
Tough Mudder involves running through torrents of mud, plunging into freezing water, and even crawling through 10,000 volts of electric wires. Injuries have included spinal damage, strokes, heart attacks, and even death. Yet as of 2016, over 2.5 million participants have entered the challenge.
“On the one hand consumers spend billions of dollars every year on pain relief, while exhausting and painful experiences such as obstacle races and ultra-marathons are gaining in popularity. How do we explain that? That’s what we aimed to find out with this research,” says Rebecca Scott of Cardiff Business School at Cardiff University.
Pain brings the body into sharp focus, say the researchers, and allows participants who spend much of their time sitting in front of the computer to rediscover the nature of their body.
In addition, pain facilitates escape. Pain provides a temporary relief from the burdens of self-awareness.
“For individuals who feel that modern office work has made their bodies’ redundant, obstacle racing and other forms of short but intense and painful activities provide a brief but acute reappearance of the body,” says coauthor Julien Cayla, assistant professor at the Nanyang Business School.
“Electric shocks and ice-cold water may be painful but they also allow participants to escape from the demands and anxieties of modern life,” adds Bernard Cova, professor at the Kedge Business School.
“By leaving marks and wounds, painful experiences help us create the story of a fulfilled life spent exploring the limits of the body.”
The study appears in the Journal of Consumer Research.
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