Today is #workoutatwork day and in tune with public health messages, people are being given the message: “It’s a good idea to exercise”
So what do we do? We try. The sun is shining the air is crisp and we go for a walk. We may get more ambitious and do something else. We have virtually limitless opportunities for exercising and we take advantage of them- at least once in a while.
Estimates of popularity of sport is usually based on whether people say they have participated in the activity once or more during the year. This tells us not how fit we are, but rather what we are drawn toward and on which activities we are willing to spend money.it helps us understand the values we have about leisure-time recreation and what we find enjoyable.
Let’s consider the benefits you can get from participating in a regular fitness program.
The Physical Side : The First International Conference on Exercise Fitness & Health held in Toronto, in 1988 a consensus of leading medical scientists concluded that regular physical exercise promotes health as well as preventing certain diseases.
In 2015 we are still promoting exercise to be a great health benefit, but ironically in the past 27 years we have let society become sedentary.
School exercise levels have dropped, after school sports, walking to work and taking the bus has reduced. People spend almost all their waking time in front of a screen of some form. Mainly sitting still squashed up and curled up in their own zone.
But we’ve known it for years, the evidence of health benefits from exercise is vast, here is a list of just some ways physical health can be improved:
Weight Management, Reduced effect of Aging, Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, High Blood Pressure, COPD, Osteoarthritis, Back Pain, Cancer, Diabetes
The Psychological Side : Evidence from the fields of psychology and psychiatry is equally compelling and can benefit people with :
Mental Health problems including Depression, Stress, Anxiety, Low Self-Esteem
So why doesn’t everyone exercise?
Perhaps one answer may be because most people can come up with a good excuse not to.
Lets sample some:
Hedonism : I like my creature comforts, no pain for me, not even a good pain. Plus everyone knows that exercise is no fun, the people who do it are joyless. Have you seen the faces they pull when they run, it hurts !
Omnipotence: I just know that whatever bad is going to happen in life will happen to someone else. I have an especially healthy disposition and inherited great genes. My family don’t get all the diseases and illness of our time, my parents lived a long life so I expect I will
Rationalization : The experts are all wrong, my friends don’t waste time on exercise. My heart has just so many beats in it before it gives out
Avoidance: There are much better things to do with my time – like watching TV, playing a game on the screen or going out for a social drink with friends
Denial: I don’t have to exercise to keep my shape and look young and attractive I can just have some plastic surgery, botox or lipo.
Superiority: Its beneath me to prance about and sweat and grunt & gyrate in an exercise class or any other kind of exercise session.
Inferiority: No matter how much I try I wont ever get the shape of even half the models in the magazines. I will never be good at athletics or even get through an exercise class without passing out. So why bother
Fear of Feeling : Exercise makes me feel and I don’t want to get too emotionally aroused – that could be dangerous
Peer Pressure : People I know don’t exercise. My friends would all desert me if I suddenly started getting fit. They would think I was getting weird
Embarrassment : I would look ridiculous in tight leggings. I would have to be in shape to even be seen to go into a gym. People would look at me and laugh.
But there is a deeper story here than just excuses.
This is the story that everyone who promotes exercise should heed.
In 2014 the EU published some research, they found that 42% of people interviewed said they don’t do sport because they don’t have the time, 20% due to lack of motivation or interest, 13 % due to disability or illness, 10 % due to lack of money. Remember these are reports of reasons why people are not doing something which just about every EU citizen must know is good for you.
42% of people reporting lack of time
What does this tell us about life in the EU in 2015? What does it tell us about the way we live and how much time we need to work in order to live. What does it tell us about the number of jobs we all do for our self. We shop, cook, do the washing ironing, clean, work, do our childcare, fill up the vehicle with fuel, just everyday things. Everything takes time, work takes time and employers expect targets to be met, an employee to be sitting down at their desk showing they are working.
Yes a very small percentage of companies provide flexible working, but it’s not the average for the low paid worker in the EU. An employer expects their employee working on time, up to 40 hours per week. Maybe many low paid workers do extra time, just to pay the bills.
42% of people reported lack of time to exercise and that is something we should listen to. Because this is a society message. Yes we do have choice over what we do in the day, but there are things we have to do, like self-care, shopping, cooking, working, these are not options.
If people don’t have enough free time to do sport take part in exercise, this needs to change to help the EU have healthy people.
20% lack of motivation or interest
But even if this group did gain a little interest would they sustain it if they really had no motivation? If there are time constraint barriers to doing exercise, would this unmotivated disinterested group sustain a regular exercise habit over time or would they drop away? What would be the most powerful motivator for this group ?
13% due to disability or illness
These are the groups we want to encourage to exercise because of the health benefits. So what are the barriers for people with disability or illness? Can we overcome them or would they just find another excuse?
10% due to lack of money
No matter what anyone says sport & exercise does cost money. Equipment can be very costly, renting space, travel to a venue, clothing and time away from earning.
Transfer of excuses: or if it’s fun you may find the time
So lots of research into why people don’t exercise, lots of exploring into what excuses people can come up with not to exercise.
But one thing all the people surveyed have in common is that they probably just don’t get enough ‘fun factor’ out of doing sport or exercise. If they have a very small amount of time, interest, motivation and money to ‘spend’ and they are not investing into sport or exercise perhaps it’s because they don’t want to.
No matter how much people who are powerful sport & exercise evangelists try to sell exercise to this group. The more they will fail. This is a key component in behaviour change theories. People have to come up with the reason to change for themselves, they have to change their own beliefs. They have to come up with the idea. If you haven’t come across it review belief perseverance theory.
So what is the key to unlock the change?
The key is to discover what people would love to find time to do, what they are motivated to do.
If they are so passionate about work, so enthusiastic that it’s not work at all, but something they have pure pleasure in, then maybe link some increased activity to that.
Yes create a #workoutatwork day for people who love to work.
But if someone really doesn’t get pleasure from work or being at work or the people at work, then this approach won’t work.
Just because you happen to be somewhere for a long period of time doesn’t mean it’s the best place to motivate someone to be a bit more active.
In fact it might be the very thing someone has very very little time to do.
It’s going to be something they absolutely adore doing which could be the key.
Basically its got to be something they enjoy doing for themselves.
So it could be singing in a choir, gardening, creative arts, photography, volunteering, playing a musical instrument. There are huge numbers of physical activities which are not sport and exercise but get people being physically active.
Most of them are something which we all used to have and do.
It’s what in the olden days, back in the 1980’s was called ….. a hobby
So my take home message if you want to be a bit more active.
…. Take up a Hobby.
Find time, just a very small mount of time, to do something you love to do.
It doesn’t matter if you knit, sew, build kites, grow cacti, make sand art, make jewellery, sing, do amateur dramatics, clog dance or bell ring, get a dog and train it and take up agility, do DIY, bake cakes, sculpt, the list is endless
Find some time and have some fun and guess what?
You’re increased physical activity factor will come with it & time will expand.