Tag Archives: motivation

What would it take to persuade you to exercise?

“What would it take to persuade you to exercise?” asks this article, Changing Our Tune on Exercise, at the NY Times (27 Aug 2012).

It’s something that I think is very important. For years and years, I’ve always been too lazy to exercise. I still am.

“For decades, people have been bombarded with messages that regular exercise is necessary to lose weight, prevent serious disease and foster healthy aging. And yes, most people say they value these goals. Yet a vast majority of Americans — two-thirds of whom are overweight or obese — have thus far failed to swallow the “exercise pill.”

Exactly! Humans aren’t logical. We know exercise is good, but that’s no guarantee we’ll do it. No pain, no gain, right? Yes we know, but it seems our desire for the gain isn’t as strong as our desire to avoid the pain.

According to the article, researchers now say we should not be offering the prospect of “future health, weight loss and body image” as incentives to exercise. Instead we should “portray physical activity as a way to enhance current well-being and happiness.” It seems, people won’t bite if they see the benefits of exercise as distant or theoretical. The benefits must be reaped in the short term, immediately.

Well, so much for long term investment! We are still hedonistic, materialistic creatures of short term gains. But there is a point.

Essentially, Dr Michelle L. Segar, a research investigator at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan, says we should stop positioning exercise as punishment for being fat and unhealthy. We should instead advertize exercise as a means of gaining daily, palpable benefits. She adds,

“Physical activity is an elixir of life, but we’re not teaching people that. We’re telling them it’s a pill to take or a punishment for bad numbers on the scale. Sustaining physical activity is a motivational and emotional issue, not a medical one.”

They say that different people have different motivations for keeping fit. Many do so for the classic reasons – to lose weight. But for some, such as the elderly, it is the conversations and companionship at gyms that are a bigger draw. For the younger ones, the need to look good is an important motivator.

I started out knowing that I needed a trainer to exercise. I never and still don’t have the will to exercise voluntarily. For more than two decades I knew I had to exercise, but I’d only succeeded in doing so by myself, maybe twice, and obviously my success was limited.

As my children grew, I began to feel that I owed it to them to live longer. I was tired of being fat. I was also motivated by appearance, except I didn’t realize it when I started. It was the sight of an ex-colleague who appeared at a reunion dinner missing practically half of her original mass, that really inspired me. I would go on to train under her trainer. And only the day(s) I found myself fitting into “slim fit”, size S and 29″ pants did I began to realize that, hey, the appearance factor is a BIG, AWESOME thing. It thrilled the hell out of me that I could finally look good. And it didn’t matter that I am age 39 – hey I look even better, I think, than some 20-somethings.

So, regardless of your motivation (or lack of), nowadays whenever someone asks me why I did this, among the words I use will always be something they may not have expected. Vanity.

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