When sports ads tell you to 'Just do it' they are absolutely right, according to a new study from the University of Alberta.
People who are successful at exercising regularly don't stop to think about it--they really do, 'Just do it', according to Dr. Sandra Cousins, professor of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta.
In-depth interviews with 40 Alberta men and women aged 42 to 77 revealed that those who exercise regularly don't employ pep talks or think much about the pros or cons of participating.
"We used to think that positive self-talk was important to promote individual exercise participation, but when it comes to the general public, you don't need a pep talk. You need a plan. If you have planned to meet a friend every Tuesday at 3 p.m. for a walk, you will show up so you don't let them down," Dr. Cousins said.
The study's findings appear in the May, 2005 journal Psychology of Sport & Exercise.
While self-talk strategies occurred among 88 per cent of those surveyed, a key strategy used by active people was to take the less talk-more action route, and to stick to a plan for exercise. "When something goes wrong with the plan, like bad weather, they adjust for it. For the unmotivated exerciser, an obstacle becomes a good excuse to do nothing. It's a mindset."
Of all the participants, boomer-age women (40 to 55) tended to have the highest activity level and awareness of the benefits of exercise. "They are leading the way in being very health-conscious," Dr. Cousins said. That is likely due to heightened awareness about health issues in the media, such as menopause, she said. "Boomer women are well-read. They are also the health-providers for their families, so that makes them more aware."
In contrast, older men and women (age 56 and up) were 30 to 50 per cent less likely to be physically active in their leisure time, fearful of causing themselves illness or injury. "They're being cautious, believing they need to be passive and careful, but they need to open up their thinking," Dr. Cousins said. "They don't believe that 60 minutes of active living everyday will help them age more successfully."
At this point in time, boomer men are also be less active in their leisure time than boomer women, largely due to being tired from their jobs. "They have noticed their pot bellies growing forming as they sit and watch the action at the sports bar," Dr. Cousins said. But this group is also the most open to the message of 'Just do it', she added. "They are very aware in this study of what they are not doing. As 'intenders', they are most likely to benefit from employer and other community initiatives for fitness."