3 Strategies Behind Motivation & Sustained Fitness

woman running

Julia Basso – PhD

Presidential Lecture:  No Sweat: The Surprising Science Behind Lasting Motivation and Sustained Physical Activity (Michelle Segar, University of Michigan)

Check out Dr. Segar’s book, “No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness”

Segar’s guiding question is, “Why don’t most people prioritize and sustain physically active lives?”  We’ve taught people to focus on distant goals such as weight loss, getting fit, disease prevention, and better health, and 75% of individuals report exercising for these reasons.

People may start an exercise program, but then they quit.  Dr. Segar calls this the “binocular problem” – they are focused on the long-term goals and because they don’t see effects immediately, they quit.  She says, “There is a gap between people’s values and behaviors – what people intend to do is very different than what they actually do.”

The real question is, what determines sustainable behavior?  Research shows that it is affect, rather than logical or reason, that motivates people in the now.  Immediate feelings outweigh the future value, and affect powerfully and predictably influences decision making.  Therefore, we must hone this research to get people to exercise in a sustained way.

Dr. Segal is trying to get people to exercise by changing the focus from the long-term goal of overall health to the immediate goal of feeling good.  

She proposes 3 strategies that we can use to get people motivated to exercise for the long term:

  1. Reframe the “why”:  Focus on the immediate feel good effects of exercise rather than losing weight and other long-term health goals

  2. Use positive affective forecasting: Tell people to expect that they will feel good – research has shown that if people expect that they will feel good, they will!

  3. Give permission: Give people permission to move in ways that feel good.  What type of exercise do you love to do?  Anything is better than nothing, and research is showing that even low-intensity exercise can be beneficial for the body and mind!

Check out her motivational work @ michellesegar.com

Related Article: How Personality Affects Workout Habits

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