Teaching Tenacity

Probably not a day goes by in which each U.S. citizen is not in some way reminded of the need to exercise. National and community-based exercise promotion campaigns, advertisements from fitness centers and equipment manufacturers, television news and the print media all confirm the validity of exercise for maintaining/improving physical and psychological health. The recently released Surgeon General’s report18 has stated to the public, in no uncertain terms, that a sedentary lifestyle is toxic to health.

Why, then, are individuals largely unable to maintain exercise programs? It can be confidently predicted, through extensive research, that 50 percent of those undertaking regular exercise will quit within six months of starting. How can the fitness industry change this rate, given that a great amount of education is already in place? Possibly, we can learn from past failures. Possibly, education and information are not as closely linked to behavior change for the better as was thought.

I have been critical of the fitness industry for not being sensitive enough to clients’ inabilities to spontaneously adapt to their new exercise situations.1 Although many in the fitness industry seemingly find it hard to believe, exercise is like work for the average new participant. Muscle fatigue, boredom and feelings of exertion are not akin to a pleasurable state for most.

For many, exercise experiences are connected with feelings of discomfort, displeasure and frustration. Couple this with a frequent perception of being out of place, in an arena where everyone appears to know what to do and how to do it, and a high likelihood of dropout emerges.

While education regarding the need for physical activity brings large numbers into an attractive, well-staffed, state-of-the-art facility, keeping sufficiently more clients than are lost requires large-scale, directed efforts that enhance their ability to adapt to exercise. As an industry, let’s take a look at where we have been, where we are and where we need to go.

January 31st, 2012 - Posted in Health Care | | Comments Off

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