Exercise: actual results do not match perceived and expected results.
Posted Aug 25 2008 2:05pm
Wanna know why, in my opinion, the vast majority of people do not currently engage in any regular exercise, or, if they have exercised in the past, stopped prematurely? Because the ACTUAL results achieved through exercise do match PERCEIVED and EXPECTED results.
Let's say you want to buy a new car and fuel efficiency is your most important consideration. So you buy a new car known for fuel efficiency, with the expectation it is going to get 30 miles to the gallon. The sales guy at the car lot assured you it was going to get 30 miles to the gallon. The commercials you saw for the car on TV promoted the fact it is fuel efficient, and the manufacturer even put a sticker on the window stating it gets 30 miles to the gallon. After driving the car for a few weeks, would you be pissed off if you came to find out the car ACTUALLY only gets 20 miles to gallon, and that this was what the car had REALLY been shown to get over and over again in independent industry tests?
Yes, you would be pissed, right? Would you buy this make and model of car again or do business with dealer who sold it to you? Probably not. Would you have a sour taste in your mouth because what you actually got was not what you expected or perceived to get? Probably so. Would it matter to you if the car in question had the highest safety and maintenance ratings in it's class and could go zero to sixty in 3 seconds? Probably not, because, while these other things are added bonuses, you bought the car with fuel efficiency as your primary consideration, and you could care less about safety ratings and speed. The actual outcomes (the car is fast, low maintenance, and safe) do not match your perceived and expected outcomes (the car was fuel efficient).
The above scenario is analogous to most people's experience with exercise. Exercise has been marketed and sold in this country as an effective weight loss method and people have been led to believe it can produce significant results. The media, companies who market and sell fitness related products and services, fitness professionals, members of popular culture and even doctors have all played a role in shaping our cosmetic/aesthetic beliefs and expectations about exercise, and the message we have heard over and over again is this: exercise is very effective in helping you lose weight. So, in America, we have come to believe exercise=weight loss. This is how we've come to view exercise and how we gauge it's effectiveness. There is just one problem: exercise, by itself, is not very effective in helping one lose weight, and there is plenty of scientific data to support this statement. What Americans need to be told is exercise (by itself) is effective in helping to maintain current weight, or, better yet, helping to prevent excessive further weight gain. This message doesn't sound as sexy as some of the advertisements you see in magazines for exercise DVD's or equipment ("Lose 30 pounds in 30 days!"), does it?
People begin exercise programs because they've been told over and over again it can really help them lose a significant amount of body weight and fat without having to make any changes in how they are eating. Sure, they know it can improve their health as well, but they are really after the weight loss and are excited to see the results in this area. They start to go to the gym 4 days per week and they walk on the treadmill, sometimes even jog, for an hour each time, and lift some weights too. After a month of doing this, they have lost 3 pounds (which is about right without any dietary modification) and their experience and results with exercise hasn't exactly matched their beliefs and expectations when they started. Never mind the fact they feel better than they have in years, their blood pressure has dropped, they are sleeping better, their joints don't ache like they used to, etc. They don't care about that stuff: they were led to believe they would lose a bunch of weight, and this didn't happen, so they are done with all this "exercise stuff".
If the government wants people to reap the metabolic and health benefits of exercise, and wants them to get moving, they better be prepared to re-educate society on what can and cannot be expected and achieved from participation in regular exercise with and without dietary modification. I really think it's just a matter of people receiving a new (and factual) message and gaining (and changing) perspective on this stuff. I also think there needs to be stricter standards on how fitness related products and services are marketed (above and beyond the almost invisible "results not typical" print at the bottom of ads and infomercials), because this is what's driving and shaping people's belief systems about exercise and weight loss.
Personally, for the last 15 years, I have never went more than 6 days without getting in some type of workout. In my book, that is pretty good consistency, and I think it's fair to say exercise is a part of my lifestyle. Over that same time period, there have been times where I have carried a little more weight and fat than I would have liked, but I never, NEVER, looked at my exercise regimen as the culprit for this, and I never said"Exercise and working out isn't working for me anymore." I was able to continue my exercise consistency and adherence during these times because I liked and, more importantly, UNDERSTOOD what I was getting and supposed to be getting through my training. If I had a different set of beliefs and expectations about exercise and training, I would have probably stopped, as so many others do. Luckily, I chose this field and subject as my career, and, in the process, have broader knowledge and access to information than the average joe or jane .