Happiness > Health (Motivationally Speaking, That Is)

According to a new article (based on a few studies) from my favorite health blog, people are more inclined to stick to exercise regimens if they are perceived to contribute to direct, immediate benefits – such as increased happiness – rather than a long-term future goal, such as better health.

Taking a marketing-like approach to exercise may be the key. To encourage sustained exercise, doctors (or whoever, really) should try to appeal to the “the emotional hooks that make it essential for people to fit it into their hectic lives.” 

“Yoga at the Farmer’s Market” © Ali Emanov 2011 CC BY-NC 2.0

A 2012 study from an interdisciplinary team at the University of Michigan was also cited in the New York Times Well Blog article (go blue!), indicating that gender and age all have impacts on the motivations for continued exercise. For instance,

“those of college age, for example, physical attractiveness typically heads the list of reasons to begin exercising, although what keeps them going seems to be the stress relief that a regular exercise program provides. The elderly, on the other hand, may get started because of health concerns. But often what keeps them exercising are the friendships, sense of community and camaraderie”

Dr. Segar, the lead author of the above study from the U of M Institute for Research on Women and Gender, put it simply: “What sustains us, we sustain.”

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