Dear women, swap punishing workouts for achievable fitness goals to stay on track
New research shows why we wimp out on workouts and how we can make more lasting changes.fitness Updated: May 25, 2017 17:18 IST
Sticking with a fitness routine is not always easy and now a team of researchers has shed some light on why we wimp out on workouts and how we can make more lasting changes.
In a new study funded internally by the National Cancer Institute, Michelle Segar of the University of Michigan and co-investigators analysed what women say makes them feel happy and successful, and how their expectations and beliefs about exercise foster or undermine those things.
“A new understanding of what really motivates women might make an enormous difference in their ability to successfully incorporate physical activity into their daily routine and have fun doing it,” said Segar.
The findings showed that both active and inactive women reported the same ingredients for feeling happy and successful. These included connecting with and helping others to be happy and successful, being relaxed and free of pressures during their leisure time, and accomplishing goals of many sorts (from grocery shopping to career goals).
But the study also found that for inactive women, their beliefs and expectations about exercise actually thwarted the things that make them feel happy and successful: They believe “valid” exercise must be intense, yet they want to feel relaxed during their leisure time.
They feel pressured to exercise for health or to lose weight, yet during their leisure time they want to be free of pressures. Success comes from achieving goals, yet their expectations about how much, where and how they should be exercising means they can’t achieve these goals.
Segar and co-investigators Jennifer Taber, Heather Patrick, Chan Thai and April Oh conducted eight focus groups among white, black and Hispanic women aged 22-49 who were either categorised as “high active” or “low active.”
The exceptions found in the study were among the more active participants, who held more flexible views of exercise. They expressed that it “was not the end of the world” if they had to skip exercising once in awhile. They made exercise more of a “middle priority,” which took the pressure off and left room for compromise when schedules and responsibilities did not permit planned exercise to occur.
The high-active women seemed to have more positive feelings from exercising, in contrast to most of the low-active women, who, in general, tended to dread the very idea of it.
“There are important implications from this study on how we can help women better prioritise exercise in their day-to-day life,” Segar said. “We need to re-educate women they can move in ways that will renew instead of exhaust them, and more effectively get the message across that any movement is better than nothing. To increase motivation to be physically active, we need to help women to want to exercise instead of feeling like they should do it.”
The study found that this can be achieved by:
* Re-educating women that movement can and should feel good to do.
* Promoting physical activity as a way to connect with important others.
* Reframing physical activity as a vehicle that helps women renew and re-energise themselves to better succeed at their daily roles and goals.
* Explain physical activity as a broad continuum that counts all movement as valid and worth doing.
The research will appear in the journal BMC Public Health.