Focus on Exercise Happiness, Not Intensity

Focus on Exercise Happiness, Not IntensityFocus on Exercise Happiness, Not Intensity

For women, focusing on exercise that makes them happy, rather than on intensity, may be key to maintaining motivation for physical activity, concludes a new study published in the journal BMC Public Health.

The research included 40 women aged between 22 and 49 years. Of these, 29 were deemed inactive (exercising for under 120 minutes each week), while 11 were considered active (exercising for at least 120 minutes weekly).

Study co-author Michelle Segar, of the Sport, Health, and Activity Research Policy Center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues asked the women what makes them feel happy and successful, reported.

Additionally, the women were asked about their beliefs and attitudes toward exercise, and researchers looked at how these conformed with their measures of happiness and success.

“A new understanding of what really motivates women might make an enormous difference in their ability to successfully incorporate physical activity into their daily routine - and have fun doing it,” notes Segar.

Researchers found that the elements required for happiness and success were the same for both groups of women, who reported that spending time with family, friends, and even pets is important for happiness and success.

Feeling relaxed and free from pressures during leisure time was another key factor for happiness and success, as was accomplishing goals, ranging from completing a grocery shop to getting a promotion.

Interestingly, however, for women who were inactive, researchers found that their beliefs about physical activity counteracted their ingredients for happiness.

For example, the inactive women believed that for exercise to be “valid,” it had to be intense, which negated their need to be relaxed in their leisure time.

   A Lot of Pressure

“You have to do this at this time, and you have to commit to these hours. You have to do this activity. You have to be so good,” one woman reported. “I feel like it’s a lot of pressure for me. I can’t commit.”

These perceived expectations about physical activity stop inactive women from reaching their exercise goals, the team notes, and reaching goals is one of their requirements for happiness and success.

Conventional beliefs about physical activity have fueled misperceptions about exercise requirements.

“We’ve all been socialized to exercise and be physically active for the last 30 years,” notes Segar.

“The traditional recommendation we’ve learned to believe is that we should exercise at a high intensity for at least 30 minutes, for the purpose of losing weight or improving our health. There are newer recommendations that permit lower-intensity activity in shorter durations but most people don’t know it.”

Researchers said women with low physical activity should perhaps take note of the attitudes to exercise reported by highly active women, who said it “was not the end of the world” if they didn’t make it to the gym now and again, and they did not place exercise as one of their highest priorities.  This more relaxed approach to physical activity might increase the motivation to exercise.

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