Why arenít people more active?
Given all the benefits of being physically active, Iím often perplexed why
so many people lead essentially sedentary lifestyles. My days are arranged
around a time to be active (walking with my dog, hiking, water-skiing,
cross-county skiing, etc.), so Iím on a one-person campaign to inspire others
to join me in enjoyable daily physical activity. Iíve read the findings from
many polls that asked people why they were not more active. Can you guess the
most common response? If you guessed lack of time, you are correct. The
cross-sectional survey for WIN the Rockies included a question asking
participants their initial reaction to the term physical activity.
Responses included: Who has the time? And, Who has the time! Yet,
the time Americans dedicate to daily television watching indicates to me that
lack of time may be the perceived hurdle to more active living, but other
factors are at play. With my own personal insights, it was with great interest I
read a recent MSNBC article on the reasons adults list for not being more
active. The results come from an informal poll conducted on the website for the
American Council on Exercise (ACE). A total of 1523 people responded to this
question: What keeps you from going to the gym?
- Almost one in five of the respondents (19%) said they were too out of
shape to work out at a gym. Say what? Isnít the whole point of going to a
gym to get fit? (Well, and then maybe to stay fit.) Cedric Bryant,
chief exercise physiologist for ACE, says gym intimidation is a powerful
barrier for many people, especially when a gym is filled with "hard
bodies in spandex."
- One in ten of the respondents (11%) said they donít go to the gym
because other gym members are "too rude." Rude behavior included
monopolizing gym equipment, talking loudly on cell phones, and not wiping
off the equipment after using it.
- Almost half the respondents (46%) said they donít go to the gym because
it is too crowded. Over-crowding was the number one reason cited for not
going to the gym more often.
- One in five (21%) of the website survey participants said they donít go
to the gym because they donít know what theyíre doing once they get
there. In order to make a bigger profit, or even to survive, many gyms
across the country have cut back on the number of instructors who walk the
floor and help exercisers as needed. Many gyms offer instruction only with
the use of personal trainers, and that service is cost prohibitive for many
For many people, gyms are a great way to stay physically active. For others,
gyms are not the answer. Thank goodness there are so many choices on the path to
physically active living! My favorite way to stay active is any option involving
the great outdoors, but if the Wyoming wind is enough to keep you inside,
consider all the options you have (water aerobics, yoga, dancing, team sports,
etc.) Jacqueline Stenson, author of the MSNBC article, highlighted a list of
strategies for staying active in 2005. The suggestions came from a panel of
experts from ACE.
- Start slowly and gradually build on your routine. If you are currently
inactive, this may mean walking five minutes a day, and then adding an
additional minute each week (week two = walk six minutes each day, week
three = walk seven minutes each day).
- Set realistic and specific goals. Donít say "Iím going to
be more active." Instead, try, "Iím going to walk for ten
minutes after dinner."
- Schedule a time each day to be physically active. Honor this time like you
would other appointments. If you canít find large amounts of time,
schedule in five or ten minute bouts of physical activity a few times each
- Stenson, N. Excuses, excuses - ĎIím too out of shapeí and other
couch potato cop-outs, MSNBC, December 14, 2004.
- American Council on Exercise (ACE) website, ACE fitness poll, www.acefitness.org,
accessed January 3, 2005.
Compiled by Betty Holmes, MS, RD
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