We’ve been expounding on the health benefits of exercise for years, but new research shows that this may not be the most effective way to motivate people to exercise more. Focusing on how — not why — to exercise appears to yield greater practical results in terms of increasing workout time.

Researchers from the Texas Christian University took 51 sedentary college students and let them choose a target exercise to practice for 8 weeks: brisk walking, running/jogging, elliptical training, group exercise or bicycling.Participants were then assigned to a “reasons,” “actions” or control group.The “reasons” group was told to write down why they should exercise more, and the “actions” group was told to journal how to meet their exercise goals — e.g., workout with a friend, join a gym, keep sneakers in the car, exercise to music or at a favorite location (the control group did not journal). At the end of two months, the “actions” group was exercising a full 36 minutes a week longer than the control group, while the “reasons” group only 12 minutes more — in other words the “actions” group was exercising about 230% longer than the “reasons” group. So, while it may not be motivating, it’s still nice to know exercise lengthens life, curbs appetite (especially sweet tooth), lowers Parkinson’s and breast cancer.
Published October 1, 2010