With the shelf life of the average New Year’s resolution anywhere between a week and three months, new research into the psychology of physical exercise could be just the tonic for the uncommitted.
Griffith Health Institute’s Associate Professor David Neumann is exploring the mindset of wannabe exercisers trying to lose weight and get into shape for the New Year, focusing on the pain barrier that undoes thousands of well-intentioned resolutions before January is past.
“Many people make New Year’s resolutions to get fitter and healthier but fail because of one reason. They don’t enjoy it,” he said.
“They don’t enjoy it because they find it hard. It’s hard to enjoy exercise when you’re overweight or not fit.”
Associate Professor Neumann, a researcher and psychologist at the Gold Coast campus of Griffith University, is developing innovative psychological strategies to make physical exercise more enjoyable and satisfying, and reduce the associated impression that it is a painstaking endeavour involving aches and effort.
Research shows that one in three New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside inside the first fortnight. It also shows that when exercise appears too intense and not enjoyable, people are less likely to continue.
New Year memberships of fitness centres barely reach past the end of February.
Dr Neumann believes we can change the negative ways we think about exercise.
“It’s important to use psychological strategies. We have to change how the mind interprets what the body is doing, and change it from thinking exercise is hard.”
The research project is funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant. It includes lab-based analysis using treadmills and weights, before extending into the community and will be carried out over a three-year period.
Dr Neumann will collaborate with exercise consultants and sports psychologists, using the knowledge gained during the lab phase to develop exercise regimes and monitor people’s persistence, enjoyment and the longevity exercise programmes.
“The strategies will account for exercise intensity and individual differences like age and experience,” he said.
“The research project will also help those that currently exercise to continue to enjoy a higher intensity workout and encourage sedentary people to start exercising.
“It will show people of all ages and levels of experience how to get more out of moderate intensity and vigorous exercise by making it more enjoyable and less painful,” said Dr Neumann.
Physical inactivity increases the risk of major health problems like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, depression, anxiety and reduces life expectancy.
It costs Australia $1.5 billion per year.
Current national guidelines recommend that people engage in 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days.
(Source: Griffith University)
For more information on fitness and exercise, including stretches, types of exercise, exercise recovery and exercise with health conditions, as well as some useful videos, see Fitness and Exercise.