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Most Americans Don't Exercise, What Would Motivate You?

Americans and exercise

Most American adults are not getting the amount of recommended exercise, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This disappointing finding prompts the question, what would motivate you to exercise and reach the goals set by the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans issued by the Department of Health and Human Services?

How much do Americans exercise?

The CDC report notes that only 20.6 percent of the 450,000 people who participated in the survey reached the goals for aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises recommended by the government. When the exercises were considered separately, more than half the respondents said they met the aerobic requirements, while nearly 30 percent reported they participated in strength exercises. What are those government recommendations?

  • At least 150 minutes per week of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, or a combination of the two
  • At least two sessions of muscle-strengthening exercises per week

How are Americans performing? Here’s what the CDC found:

  • Among men, 53.1 percent met the aerobic guidelines and 34.4 percent met the muscle-strengthening recommendations
  • Among women, 50.2 percent met the aerobic goals and 24.5 percent participated in muscle-strengthening
  • Overweight or obese individuals were less likely to meet the aerobic or muscle-strengthening goals than were normal weight or underweight adults: 13.5 percent of obese and 21.9 percent of overweight adults said they met the goals, compared with 25.8 percent of normal and underweight respondents

How to get people to exercise more
In the past, the CDC recommended ways to encourage adults to exercise, such as making school recreation facilities available to adults after hours and creating bike-friendly streets. However, it may require more than these motivators.

Recent research from Iowa State University suggests that the motivation to exercise may have biological and biochemical origins. If this is true, scientists need to understand what factors would motivate people to get up off the couch and exercise.

The Iowa researchers discovered several important factors concerning exercise. One was that how people perceive their body’s sensations during and after exercise has a significant impact on whether they enjoy the physical activity.

Another factor is that many people may be exerting themselves more than they realize doing just everyday activities, so if they exercise, they may feel uncomfortable and overextended. This causes them to stop rather than take the time to gradually increase their exercise activity.

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What would motivate you to exercise?
If you are among the majority of adults who don’t participate in routine aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises, what would motivate you to do so? For example:

Exercising with a friend. If a friend said he or she wanted to start a regular exercise program (e.g., walking 5 days a week) and wanted an exercise partner, would that be motivation enough? For many people, sharing the exercise experience helps them stick with the program.

It’s necessary for your health. The list of health benefits associated with regular exercise is long and often touted in articles. But what if you had a health condition, such as heart disease, and your doctor recommended you participate in an exercise program, would you do so? A new study from the Netherlands questioned 311 individuals with congenital heart disease whether they would participate in an exercise program designed especially for adults with congenital heart disease.

Thirty-seven percent of the invited adults returned the completed questionnaires, and of those, only 59 percent were willing to participate in an individualized training program. When the nonresponders are taken into consideration, only about 20 percent of adults with congenital heart disease were willing to exercise for their health.

Do it for your kids. Given the growing number of children who are overweight or who have adult diseases such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, encouraging them to exercise is critical for their current and future health. Would making exercise a family affair to benefit your children be motivation enough?

Also read: Is High Intensity Training For You?
Exercise Improves Quality of Life, Longevity for Cancer Patients

People give lots of reasons for not exercising: not enough time, too tired, too overweight, it doesn’t work (really?), it’s boring, can’t afford to go to a gym, physically limited, or don’t need to lose weight. Putting the excuses aside, what would motivate you to exercise, and would you share your secret with others?

Dontie ML et al. Are grown-ups with congenital heart disease willing to participate in an exercise program? Congenital Heart Disease 2013 Apr 22. Epub ahead of print
Ekkekakis P et al. The pleasure and displeasure people feel when they exercise at different intensities: decennial update and progress towards a tripartite rationale for exercise intensity prescription. Sports Medicine 2011 Aug 1; 41(8): 641-71
Harris C et al. Adult participation in aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activities—United States 2011. MMWR 2013; 62: 326-30

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