“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” This is a thought I battle with everyday being in the health and fitness industry. What is the disconnect that makes some people so readily interested in starting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and others seem so disinterested? Is fitness boring? Does healthy food taste bad? Is a healthy lifestyle expensive or inconvenient?
To quench my curiosity, I took a poll. Throughout my daily routine I asked a variety of people questions, “Do you exercise?”, “If not, what is your aversion to starting?” As I continued to ask probing questions I found that there were two main themes: time and motivation.
A single day has one-thousand four hundred and forty minutes. There are one hundred and sixty-eight hours in one week. When it comes to ‘time’ as the aversion to exercise, I had to wonder, was it really just the time, or simply an issue of poor time management? Sometimes you have to evaluate the balance and quality of your life.
Motivation was the other recurring excuse for not exercising. “I just lack the motivation!” This statement made me think about motivation. The definition of motivation, according to Merriam-Webster, is a motivating force, stimulus, or influence. A person may “lack” stimulus that is positive and fun, which is understandable. A person may also, lack the desire to perform tasks to reach a goal if it is not influential.
Research has shown that up to 80% of people are not ready to delve into action right away. It is very common for a person to resist pressure to take action if they are not ready for it.
The Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (TTM), is a useful tool to get started. The TTM groups the change process into distinct stages of readiness.
- Stage 1: Pre-contemplation (“I’m not ready”)
At this stage, a person does not intend to start the healthy behavior in the near future. They may have lost confidence from past failed attempts.
- Stage 2: Contemplation (“I’m getting ready”)
At this stage, a person intends to start the healthy behavior within the next 6 months.
- Stage 3: Preparation (“I’m ready”)
At this stage, a person is ready to start taking action within the next 30 days. A person will take small steps towards the healthy behavior. For example, telling friends and family that they want to change the behavior. The number one concern at this stage is, fear of failure.
- Stage 4: Action (“I am doing”)
At this stage, a person has changed their behavior within the last 6 months, and needs to work hard to keep moving ahead. It is important to learn how to strengthen their commitment and fight the urge to slip back into old habits. Helpful strategies include: substituting unhealthy activities with positive ones, and rewarding themselves for taking steps toward changing.
- Stage 5: Maintenance (“I have been doing”)
At this stage, a person has changed their behavior for longer than 6 months. It is important for people in this stage to be aware of situations that may tempt them into unhealthy behaviors—particularly stressful situations.