They know they should do more, yet can’t for various reasons,” says Suzanne Laberge, a professor at the Université de Montréal Department of Kinesiology.
Laberge says the message must be communicated differently because guilt and anxiety hamper motivation. “Public health organizations should focus on the fun and benefits rather than the sense of duty,” says Laberge. “Guilt is a strong tool to address smoking or poor eating habits, yet it’s the wrong approach to promote exercise.”
The SOM survey shows that guilt goes beyond socioeconomic boundaries and how healthy, overweight and obese people experience similar levels of guilt. “Our hypothesis is that people with a healthy weight aren’t seeking out the same benefits as those who simply want to lose weight,” says Laberge.
Some 30 minutes of sustained physical exercise is needed, three times per week, is the message the public has retained. The SOM survey showed that about half of respondents did less than the recommended exercise and the other half trained at least four times per week.
According to Laberge, the public’s perception of 30 minutes three times a week isn’t perfectly accurate. “People should exercise everyday and young people should do more than an hour a day,” says Laberge who subscribes to this recommendation by the World Health Organization.
The SOM survey also found confusion regarding what qualifies as physical activity. “For some, taking the stairs three or four times a day is sufficient when that is only part of what is needed,” says Laberge. “Simply put, the chosen physical activity should allow a person to maintain a conversation yet prevent them from singing.”
Every adult should sustain his or her practice of physical activities throughout the year. People who have been inactive for several years, stresses Laberge, should start slowly and progressively to get moving.
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International press attaché
Université de Montréal
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