Breaking the Barriers to Exercise

Last Friday, May 3rd I attended the IDEA Personal Trainer Institute Conference in Seattle.  IDEA is a conference for personal trainers to come together and get comprehensive, in-depth training from some of the top fitness professionals in the world. Sessions ranged from full-on workout sessions (TRX, Kettle Bell training) to lectures on motivating clients, and running a successful fitness business.  I had the opportunity to attend a session presented by Rodney Corn from PTA Global entitled “Breaking the Barriers to Exercise” in which he discussed how to motivate non-exercisers to get active.

1gf4g Rodney started off the session by asking: “What do you consider exercise?” Now in a room full of personal trainers you can imagine that there were visions of some pretty intense and vigorous exercise. To be fair, the morning sessions looked something like the video you see on the left.  He then asked the room to go through a series of movements. He had us pick up a medicine ball and carry it to the other end of the conference room. Then he had us roll an exercise ball to the other end of the conference room. Pretty easy and non-strenuous movements.  “Was this exercise?” From the expressions of the majority of the people in the room I would say most thought NO.

Exercise is movement.  It is generally defined as movement that is planned, structured, and repetitive for the purpose of conditioning any part of the body. The industry’s  standard for exercise is a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense exercise per week.  For increased benefits the recommendation is 300 minutes of moderate exercise or 150 minutes of intense exercise per week.

In the following video Dr. Joan Vernikos, looks to simplify the idea of exercise stating:

“The key to lifelong health is more than just traditional gym exercise. The answer is to rediscover a lifestyle of constant, natural, low intensity, non-exercise movement that uses the gravity vector throughout the day.”

So if exercise is so simple, then why aren’t more people doing it? The situation today is pretty dire:

  •  1.6 billion people are overweight or obese in the world
  • 60% of people worldwide don’t get sufficient exercise
  • 70% of the US population is overweight or obese
  • Less than 20% of people get the recommended amount of physical activity
  • 25% of US population does ZERO physical activity

There are more fitness facilities, personal trainers and education than ever, yet there is also less participation in exercise and more disease than ever before. What are the barriers to exercise? Why are so many people remaining inactive? Rodney suggested there are two major obstacles: Pre-existing level of activity and the suggested time required to exercise.

Dr. Roy Sugarman, Neuropsychologist states: “People need the reward of micro-goal successes to avoid ambivalence about the big goals”.   So breaking down daily activities into smaller, shorter bouts and intervals would be much easier for the sedentary populace to digest. Protocols for non-exercisers and beginners should be just 5 to 10 minutes in length. It has been scientifically proven even short intervals (5-10 min) of activity can have a physical and mental benefit.

At this point of the lecture you could hear the collective sigh of the trainers in the room.  Really? Only 5-10 minutes? Personal trainers are used to pushing people to their limits. They turn even the average Joe into an athlete. How can 10 minutes be enough? Rodney hammered home the point by saying:

“People are more likely to change when they have a sense of control, can manage the process and see some quick micro results.”

Trainers should match exercises and programs specifically to the client by knowing their personality, behavior patterns and motivation. They should ensure that the program gives the client a sense of control and that the length of exercise is short enough to facilitate change. The fact is, the more often you can get someone to do an activity, the more likely you are able to help them establish a new habit. If the program is overwhelming for an individual, they just won’t do the exercises. Training programs need to be appealing, nonthreatening and most of all – achievable.

The fitness industry is not designed to meet the needs of the sedentary population because the fitness industry’s idea of exercise is too high. The reality is that any movement is exercise and for some just doing simple movements around the house is where they need to start. As Dr Joan Vernikos says: “Sitting kills, movement heals”. Helping someone get in the habit of performing even the simplest of movements can move them towards a more healthy and active lifestyle.

At Wellpepper, we motivate behavior change by giving clients detailed instructions, reminders, and motivational prompts to remember to do their exercises. Many professionals we have worked with recognize that when it comes to motivation, sometimes less is more.  However, some have asked how many exercises can you prescribe to clients with Wellpepper? The answer is as many as you like,  but the trick is to find that magic amount for the end customer. What will drive them to change?

Posted in: Exercise Physiology, Healthcare motivation

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