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Why People Do Not Exercise

February 03, 2012 by NCSF 1 comment

Imagine going to make a purchase and you had to abide by the following rules:

  1. You have to prepay and wait an extended period of time before the product is delivered.
  2. You have to make payments most days of the week.
  3. The product may never actually come and there is no refund if it doesn’t.
  4. You may make some payments and stop before reinitiating the payment schedule, but any prior payment is lost so you must start the payment process over.
  5. You may have to pay more than someone else for the same product and may actually get a lower level product in exchange.
  6. Once the product is delivered you must continue to pay for the product.
  7. If you stop paying for the product it will be taken away soon after that.
  8. The only currency accepted as payment is self deprivation, discomfort, and pain.

Would you make the investment?

The product is actually your health and fitness, and this point underscores the reason why so few people engage in routine physical activity (~22%), even less reach an exercise level of training, and less than half of that population consistently reaches fitness level training intensities throughout the week. Much like the stock market, which very few people use to become rich but rather earn just enough to retire; exercise provides very few people with visible abs, a perfect bikini body or bulging muscles; but the time-effort investment yields health and improved quality of life. The first step to this realization is squelching the façade that weight loss, muscle growth, and performance enhancement can be attained in a short period of time – regardless of the supplements (other than steroids), programs, or diet books utilized. Secondly, the attainable results must be equated to a cost. Not a financial cost but a time-effort relationship cost. Once the values of health and life quality are raised and the vanity aspect is reduced to a true time-effort relationship, people may see exercise as being more valuable and a more realistically attainable goal.

It is easy to suggest that if people would just train harder and more frequently, eat better, avoid alcohol and stress, get more sleep, and drink more water everything would be fine. But, studies and life indicate that this is not a viable solution. When left to their own accord people self select exercise that is easy. In trials used to measure self-selected cardiovascular and resistance exercise, the normal selection is often between 50-60% of VO2max and 1RM, respectively. To put this in perspective, fitness recommendations start at 60% for VO2max and ~70% for strength training. Exercise is uncomfortable; activity below 60% max however can be performed at a comfortable level – but unfortunately with little to no adaptation response elicited from the training. Even when control groups were compared to educated groups in resistance exercise, the self-selected intensities still remain at moderately low levels and although the educated group used 21% greater load (63.4% +/- 6.4 1RM) compared to the control group (50.3% +/- 12.0 1RM), neither group self-selected appropriate strength training intensities for improved adaptation.

When groups trained with a personal trainer the outcomes demonstrate the positive effectiveness of an exercise leader, but still spoke poorly to an individual’s tendency for proper exercise intensity selection. Women trained by a personal trainer and those who never used a personal trainer were asked to select the weight they used in their own resistance training workouts that enabled the completion of 10 repetitions for the chest press, leg press, seated row, and leg extension exercises. Investigators tested each participant for their actual one repetition-maximum (1RM) strength on each exercise. The 10 repetition self-selected intensity was calculated based on a percent of each 1RM value. For self-selected relative intensity, the group that worked with a trainer selected significantly greater intensities for leg press (50% vs. 41%), chest press (57.4% vs. 48%), seated row (56% vs. 42%) and leg extension (43% vs. 38%) compared with the No Personal Training experience group. Overall, the average self-selected intensity for all exercises was approximately 51.4% in the personally-trained group and approximately 42.3% in the No Personal Training group.

This same outcome is worsened when overweight and obese subjects are compared to healthy weight individuals. When overweight women were compared to healthy weight women in self- selected and imposed-intensity aerobic training, overweight women showed higher oxygen uptake and perceived exertion than the normal-weight women during both sessions. Although the two groups did not differ in ratings of pleasure-displeasure during the session at self-selected speed, only the overweight women showed a significant decline when the speed was imposed. When a speed of just 10% higher than what overweight women would have self-selected was used, pleasure declined significantly. This presents concerns about the diminished enjoyment leading to loss of intrinsic motivation for effective levels of physical activity in the overweight segment of the population. Although all groups consistently self-select low fitness intensities, the healthy weight group tolerated forced increases much better than overweight females. Researchers concluded imposed exercise intensities may increase exercise attrition in overweight persons.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, sedentary women experienced the same outcome as the overweight women. Researchers placed the same demands of the previous study on normal weight sedentary women in two 20-min treadmill exercise bouts, one during which they could select the speed and one during which the speed was 10% higher than the self-selected rate. During the bout at self-selected intensity, ratings of pleasure remained stable, whereas during the imposed-intensity bout pleasure decreased. Therefore, even a minor increase in exercise intensity beyond the level that a new exerciser would have self-selected can bring about a decrease in pleasure, something that potentially threatens participation rates. Personal trainers should recognize exercise tolerance and clearly explain the need for discomfort to reflect exercise adaptations. Individuals unwilling to engage in higher intensities should recognize that even lower level exercise makes a significant difference in health regardless or even void of vanity-related changes.

1 comment

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Lana Egnatoff
March 20, 2012, 01:02 PM
How true, how true, how true!!!