Staying Active: Changing Our Motives
It is undeniable that we must remain active in our daily lives. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 30 minutes of moderately intense activity 5 times a week, which may seem like nothing to the average person. Sadly, according to ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, only 46% of surveyed Americans met this requirement (Pescatello,7). Shocking, truly *sarcasm *.
With our country’s countless desk jobs and lazy tendencies, it isn’t surprising that we’ve continued to grow in size and keep cardiovascular disease at the top of our mortality costs. Our advancements in technology and other means of living has added so much convenience to our lives that has also removed the opportunity to be active.
Cars cut travel time in half, but we have turned to our vehicles for short trips on a sunny day when we could easily sacrifice an extra 20 minutes to walk. Even gym classes have been made into online courses for highschoolers to allow more time for academics, but this removes the opportunity to force kids to be active, and instead left them solely responsible for “taking gym” on their own.
We’ve Become Accustomed to Taking Shortcuts
And that has taken a toll on our well being. When some people finally come to the realization that they need to better their health for the sake of their life, THEN they start to turn towards exercise. And even then, shortcuts are still attempted.
People turn towards diet pills to “burn the calories for them” and expensive step trackers to convince themselves that they are moving more. Physical activity is no longer something we turn to for enjoyment, but something we turn away from because of inconvenience and other means of satisfaction.
We are constantly reminded of the health benefits that are paired with physical activity. It can lower cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, and improve our strength and cardiovascular abilities. We all know that it is good for us, yet, it still seems like such an annoyness and inconvenience for some to fit it into their schedule.
When I used to work at a gym, members would always say “I know I should lift weights” or that they should come in more often or that they should eat better.” It has become an activity that we don’t value as fun and necessary for our happiness, but as something to maintain health and prevent disease. People make staying active sound just like flossing. We know we should floss every night because we know it prevents many oral problems, yet most would be open to admit that they definitely don’t floss every day, or at all.
I think that physical activity has become a hard habit to develop for most because I think it’s become something we feel that we “have to do.” A necessity, like flossing, that is all things good but sounds more like a chore. I’m not saying that flossing could ever become something one develops a fancy for, but if only we could make it seem enjoyable.
Physical activity has been advertised as something as preventative rather than something enjoyable. Yes, it is comparable to medicine, but that adds a negative association to the idea of exercising. A health professional telling a client over and over how helpful working out can be on their health isn’t going to motivate someone that hates going to the gym. Telling me over and over that running will help my endurance levels won’t make me develop a love for it. If it’s endurance levels that I’d want to improve, I’d rather find something I enjoy doing that will do the same job running is advertised to do. Like dancing. Enjoyment is key.
In the fitness world and the health world in general, it is imperative to help people find different motives for staying active. Habits are only developed of our desire to keep doing that activity. It’s almost impossible to develop a habit for something just because it has secondary benefits.
Instead of pushing exercise on someone because it’ll help their weight control, perhaps introduce them to exercise because of it’s ability to relieve stress immediately. Describe a walk in the park as being something beneficial because of the warm sun and beautiful scenery rather than stressing it’s ability to aid in heart health.
We need to start making physical activity something that doesn’t call for a shortcut, or seem like a “to-do,” or something of inconvenience. Not to say that physical activity is something we can avoid with an iPhone app or supplemented with a car ride, but it has been held to the same regard as the grueling walk to a neighbors house when you could just as easily hop in your car and get there in half the time. If being active could be viewed as something enjoyable for everyone, then perhaps we could make a difference in the health status of society.
Pescatello, Linda S. “Benefits and Risks Associated with Physical Activity.”ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health, 2014. 7. Print.