Despite the fact that the National Institutes of Health report low participation in regular exercise by adults in the U.S.; the CDC reports significantly less disease among those who exercise, and even the World Health Organization says a lack of exercise by peoples worldwide poses “ a serious health risk,” yet many millions of people still do not exercise regularly. Why is this? Particularly when the health and other benefits of regular exercise are so well known? The one word that comes up over and over in looking at this topic is MOTIVATION. The big questions are: how do people get motivated, stay motivated and truly commit to a lifelong exercise program?
The serious health risks associated with sedentary behavior are striking: lower cardiovascular output, loss of muscle strength, cognitive function decline, greater fat content, less elasticity in our vascular system and weaker bones as we age if we do not exercise, according a 2014 paper published in Medicine & Science in Sports Exercise (2014). In fact, excess sedentary behavior is directly related to poor health outcomes. This has led to an explosion into the field of research on how to get people to regularly exercise.
There are basically three schools of thought on the role of motivation. There is the social-cognitive model; the self determination theory and, finally, the effect of general action goals the latter of which appears to almost always generate physical activity among the population, albeit with some limitations.
You can do it. Believe.
In the Social-Cognitive model of achievement, it is believed that motivation is different among different people due to the way individuals interpret their ability and success in a variety of ways. In fact, more research is needed to delve into the psychological-cognitive arena to explain what makes one person a success story in adopting exercise as a regular part of their life while another simply walks away. The research, done at Texas Technical University, acknowledged that though differences are seen between high ability study participants with either a mastery or ego performance orientation, the major achievement motivation difference exists between mastery-oriented individuals and low perceived ability participants.
In other words, those individuals who believed they could master the exercise program were more likely to adapt the exercise program than those who did not trust their ability to successfully undertake and/or master the exercise tasks.
It’s in you. Find it.
The self-determination theory posits that intrinsic and extrinsic motivations lead one’s actions. Under this theory, intrinsic motives “positively predict exercise participation across a range of samples and settings.” However, the research found that there is a group of people for whom extrinsic or intrinsic motivators had no effect on whether or not they exercised. “Such findings suggest that many people lack sufficient motivation to participate in moderate or intensive exercise or physical activity per week.”
Rest, then action
Research on general action goals found that such goals did lead to a greater propensity to exercise. In other words, people who are at rest and presented with an action presentation, slideshow, film, or exercise class were overwhelmingly prompted to participate in exercise.
The only real exception to this rule is that if a person had just completed an activity i.e. work, school, chores or leisure activities, then these action cues had no effect. “An implication of this work is that participation in certain leisure activities such as playing video games may be causally related to a lack of motivation to exercise.”
The bottom line is that motivation is the biggest factor in predicting regular, consistent exercise but research into the issue demonstrates what we already know. Most people do not exercise. In fact, in the United States, the incidence of obesity has climbed from 13.4 percent of the population in 1960 to 35.1 percent in 2009. But there are some simple things all people can do to increase their odds of actually exercising. Keep exercise gear in sight; wear exercise clothes on the days you want or need to exercise, don’t plan to exercise immediately after doing other tasks, make a chart, use a fitness app, and last but not least, get yourself a stopwatch like the one on Azumio and just hit the start button on the workout feature, start working out and don’t stop until at least 30 minutes have passed. Better yet, if you have an hour, keep going until that stopwatch reaches one hour. Your older, healthier self needs you to find that motivation. Now.
Ramona Fortanbary is a Northern Virginia-based freelance writer and editor. Ramona has served as a writer in many industries. She has been a newspaper editor, corporate communications manager and public affairs specialist and senior writer-editor for the U.S. government. Ramona has studied at Chapman and Harvard universities. Her interests include fitness, reading, traveling and volunteer work. Ramona currently serves on the board of Heart Marks Art Therapy, a 501(c)(3) organization offering free art therapy sessions to at risk segments of our society.
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