Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Step by Step: Exercising the Positive Way

As we plunge into the holiday season in much of the world, weight management might be on your mind.  I covered a number of consequence-based methods that can help in the book, and new research comes out every day.

Exercise is an important part of weight management, and quite apart from that, it's an important healthy habit for everyone.  Here’s a link to the US Center for Disease Control’s webpage with exercise recommendations. The idea is to get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, and tackle strength training twice a week.  If you’re at these levels, you’re ahead of the game!  How do we get--and keep--ourselves on track (literally)?

Simply recording how much you exercise can provide enough reinforcement for effective motivation.  I know that one of my friends who bought an electronic pedometer started walking more.  After all, what fun to watch the number of steps add up.  If you monitor your progress on a graph with a rewarding upward slope of steps per week, all the better.  Some of the devices on the market do this automatically.

A recent study by University of Florida researchers in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis used an admirably simple approach to investigate what might help inactive older people.  The participants didn't even have to come in to the university much, because the Internet let them submit their results far more easily and frequently.  At first, they followed their usual routines while wearing pedometers, providing a "baseline" level of activity.  Using these initial data, the researchers then set goals for each participant individually.  Everyone submitted their results each night--and got to see graphs of their progress.  In one group, that was essentially it.  In another group, small payments were available in addition for meeting the goals.  Would money make a difference?

Well, yes, the group getting the financial incentives did do better, meeting nearly all of their goals.  But that wasn't the take-home point.  Instead, and even more encouraging:  Both groups exercised substantially more than they had been.

Of course, take advantage of social support, commitments, intrinsically rewarding forms of exercise, etc.  And enjoy the holidays!

1 comment:

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