The Exercise Challenge

What makes being a couch potato so tempting?   While we all know the importance of regular exercise to keep our bodies healthy,  doing nothing seems to come much easier to us.  And we pay a price for that.    According to economists,  having a sedentary lifestyle costs twice the amount of lifetime external subsidies that smokers do whether in the form of sick leave, disability insurance,  and group life insurance costs.   A sedentary lifestyle can also mean a shorter lifespan and increased medical costs due to heart disease,  cancer, stroke, diabetes and depression.     If all “couch potatoes” started exercising even modestly, the potential savings could run into hundreds of billions of dollars. 

Despite exercise promotion campaigns such as the Let’s Move campaign sponsored by First Lady Michelle Obama,  78% of Americans do not exercise regularly and that statistic has shown little change over the past four decades.    Though nobody disputes the importance of regular exercise, most people avoid exercise or, if they do make the attempt, fail to stick with ambitious exercise programs for long. 

In a recent overview published in the Review of General Psychology,  Dr. Seppo E. Iso-Ahola  of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health explored the question of why people have trouble sticking to an exercise routine.    As the author of four books and 70 journal articles on the social psychology of exercise and health, Dr. Iso-Ahola has spent decades exploring the hidden and not-so-hidden motivators underlying exercise and the reasons people having for exercising (or avoiding exercise as the case may be).

To read more, check out my Psychology Today blog post. 


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