People are more likely to be enticed into working out when they are made aware of the immediate rewards rather than long-term benefits of exercise, new research suggests.
"We need to develop new messaging that teaches people that physical activity is a way to reduce their stress in the moment, feel better in the moment, create more energy in the moment," said lead author Michelle Segar, who calls for a “rebranding” of exercise benefits. "You're a more patient parent. You enjoy your work more. You don't snap at your spouse as much. The benefits of exercise help you lead a more pleasant and productive life. The messaging needs to go there."
A majority of 385 women age 40 to 60 who were surveyed over a year reported they exercised more for short-term benefits, like stress reduction and energy boosting, rather than longer-term benefits like weight loss and decreased risk of disease. Those who exercised for immediate rewards also exercised more.
"Health and healthy aging are very abstract," said Segar. "We may endorse them as important, but the problem lies in the fact that we live very busy, complicated lives. When you're looking at your daily to-do list, how compelling is fitting in exercise for a reason that's far in the future, where you might never notice? If you're exercising to enhance the quality of your daily life because it reduces your stress or improves your mood, you notice those things immediately. And if you don't exercise, you immediately notice you feel worse."
Other immediate rewards, said Segar, may include enjoyment of the outdoors, increased social time with others, mood elevation, increased work productivity, and a healthier home environment.