Insanely Simple Behavioral Strategies

By PTA Global Co-Founder Rodney Corn

If it is alright with you, I’d like to cut right to the chase here… A large part of the Fitness Industry – both economically and chronologically – is consumed with “inspiring the inspired.” This, in and of itself, is not wrong unless it is a) to the exclusion of all others (i.e. non-inspired) and/or b) at the very least doesn’t spawn a new avenue of concerted efforts toward those people. To discover how we’re doing, what we’re doing, and potential ways we could explore to do it better, I’d like to walk us through these 4 main objectives:

  • Review the status quo
  • Review the current state of the industry
  • Investigate the research
  • Propose 2 new simple standards

Status Quo:
Current exercise recommendations for US adults from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as well as ACSM and the American Heart Association (AHA):

  • 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.(2)

State of the Industry:
It is estimated that globally there are 1.6 billion people who are overweight and/or obese (4). 60% of people worldwide do not get “sufficient” physical activity (5) with less than 12% carrying a gym membership (probably a lot lower than that) (6).

In the US, ~70% of adults are overweight and/or obese (20% of children) with Less than 20% getting the recommended amount of physical activity (4). In fact ~25% of the US does not get any physical activity (7). Less than 15% of people carry a gym membership (6, 8) and of the 8% that join a fitness club, 30%-50% leave (attrition). This leaves 4%-5% of US adults in a fitness club. 3%-7% of the 4%-5% remaining adults purchase personalized training. This equates to a whopping .35% of US adults who pay for personalized training services. We have more fitness facilities, personal trainers, and education than ever before (~300% increase) with less participation in ‘exercise’ AND more disease than ever before!

Quick comment… If my math is even halfway close, there are about 4 billion people worldwide who don’t get enough exercise and yet we still wish to fight, haggle, and try to impress the few hundred million who go to a fitness club. Does that seem weird to anyone else?

Research:
In a recent study,(1) researchers noted that there were two major obstacles for participants adhering to an exercise program:

  1. Pre-existing level of physical activity
  2. Suggested time required to exercise

Women in this study who were more sedentary and asked to exercise for 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week (150 minutes) were much more likely to quit.

NOTE: While this amount of time (CDC recommendation) was shown to be a major obstacle to adherence, this study did show that participants were much more likely to perform 90-120 minutes of activity per week. Less worked better. Wow, and we really need research to tell us that?!?

In his new book entitled Engaging and  Retaining  Clients  in  Healthy  Behaviour  Change:   A  guide  to  motivation  for  Personal  Trainers  and  Coaches, world-renowned Clinical Neuropsychologist, Dr. Roy Sugarman (www.roysugarman.com) states (3):

  • People don’t mind change, they just hate being  told  to  change “ and
  •  People “need the  reward  of  microgoal  successes  to  avoid  ambivalence  about  the  big  goals.”

In other words, people are more likely to change when they feel that they have a sense of control, can manage the process and see some quick ‘micro’ results. But c’mon, can you really make the slightest bit of difference with all of this micro-goal crap? Allow the research to tell those who already apply these principles, already know to be true.

Whole Body Vibration

  •  When we look at the research protocols for non-exercisers or beginners, many of the routines are 5-10 minutes in length (9, 10, 11, 12).

Green Exercise:

  • 5 minutes of exercise in a “green” environment – park, working in a backyard garden, on a nature trail, etc. will benefit self-esteem and mood (13)

Exercise within Daily Organizational Routines (i.e. School & Work):

  • Recommended daily physical activity accumulated in short intervals (e.g., <10 minutes) may be more feasible and appealing to the relatively sedentary populace than longer bouts… physical activity promotion strategies at the organizational level may be more sustainable (14)

But this shouldn’t be about research or statistical claims. And we shouldn’t need research to tell us these insanely simple behavioral strategies. It’s about getting people to do something they are afraid to or unwilling to do. If we lower the barrier to entrance, the resistance to change is less. With less resistance to change, the chance of someone doing the desired activity more often increases. If we can increase the number of times someone performs an activity, we are more likely to establish a habit.(15)

 2 New Simple Standards for Breaking Barriers to Exercise:

  1. Length of exercise bouts: is it short enough to facilitate change?
    1. 5-10 minutes has been scientifically shown to promote:

i.     adherence – the adoption of new way

ii.     physical and mental benefit

B. 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per week

 

  1. Style of coaching, exercises & program design:  does this program give the client a sense of control – i.e. did they have a say in what it looks like?
    1. Match the exercises and programming specifically to the client by knowing their:

i.     Personality

            1. Director
            2. Analytical
            3. Amiable
            4. Expressive

ii.     Preferred Learning Style

            1. Auditory
            2. Visual
            3. Kinesthetic

iii.     Exercise Preference – Style of Training

            1. Traditional
            2. Hybrid
            3. Progressive

iv.     Motivation – their “buzz words”

Train the client NOT the guidelines

References:

1. Arikawa AY, O’Dougherty M, Kaufman BC, Schmitz KH, Kurzer MS. Attrition and adherence of young women to aerobic exercise: Lessons from the WISER study. Contemp Clin Trials. 2011 Nov 27. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 22138444 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

2. http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/index.html

3. Sugarman R. Engaging  and  Retaining  Clients  in  Healthy  Behaviour  Change:   A  guide  to  motivation  for  Personal  Trainers  and  Coaches. 2011 (www.roysugarman.com)

4. http://www.infoplease.com/world/statistics/obesity.html

5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exercise_trends

6. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/5285812.stm

7. http://www.cdc.gov/Features/dsPhysicalInactivity/

8. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/27/fashion/27SKIN.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2

9. http://www.powerplate.com/resources/doc/research/published-studies/strength-power/en/acute-effects-of-whole-body-vibration-on-muscle-activity-strength-and-power.pdf

10. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1359/JBMR.0301245/pdf

11. http://www.powerplate.com/resources/doc/research/published-studies/strength-power/en/effects-of-whole-body-vibration-training-on-sprint-running-kinematics-and-explosive-strength-performance.pdf

12. http://www.powerplate.com/resources/doc/research/published-studies/cardiovascular-circulation/en/effects-of-whole-body-vibration-training-on-cardiorespiratory-fitness-and-muscle-strength-in-older-individuals.pdf

13. Barton J, Pretty J. What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis. Environmental Science & Technology, 2010: 100325142930094 DOI: 10.1021/es903183r

14. Barr-Anderson DJ, AuYoung M, Whitt-Glover MC, Glenn BA, Yancey AK. Integration of short bouts of physical activity into organizational routine a systematic review of the literature. Am J Prev Med. 2011 Jan;40(1):76-93.

15. Lally, P, van Jaarsveld, CHM, Potts, HWW and Wardle, J. How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. Euro J Soc Psych, 40: 998–1009, 2010. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.674

 

 

Comments & Responses

One Response so far.

  1. Richard Earney says:

    Thanks Rod – too true, too too true……

    We’ve got it wrong, we being the industry…..THANK goodness, there are some forward thinking health conscious people behind this…not just the money makers (that comes with success)….

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