When faced with the decision to exercise, adults should just do it as most people who ‘think about it’ often talk themselves out of it, suggests a new study.
"Thinking about it can undermine your resolve," says Dr Sandra O’Brien Cousins at the University of Alberta in Canada.
From the study, the researchers found that the most important strategy for those who regularly participated in physical activity was to just start exercising, rather than doing a lot of self-talk. Of the four groups of study participants, including men and women aged 40 to 55 years, and those aged 56 and older, the baby boomers were the most active during work and leisure time, as expected. Yet, their levels of leisure-time physical activity were "somewhat sub-optimal," say the researchers.
Middle-aged women, who were among the most active, thought about the benefits of exercise. These women were self-motivated, and did not depend on anyone else to make them exercise.
Middle-aged men, on the other hand, were less self-motivated, with thoughts on specific activities such as "they cannot actually do, do not enjoy, and by virtue of the exertion, do not actually want to do."
Elderly women reported procrastination forms of self-talk saying "can't" or "might not feel like it." Some were concerned about their declining health and unsure about how much to do.
Older men believed they should be more active, but were unsure about how they could benefit from more activity considering their health and limited longevity.
Thus, awareness of the value of exercise does not always translate into action, according to the study findings. Messages such as, 'Just do it' or 'Don't think about it,'" may be all that is needed to trigger adults who know they need to increase their physical activity, the researchers conclude.
Once men and women are motivated to begin exercising, however, Cousins advises them to "pick activities you want (and) love to do, recruit a companion and make a date, stick to the plan or have a contingency lined up and enjoy yourselves."
Source: Psychology of Sport & Exercise, May 2005.
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