In most of my blog posts, I’ve included a section on lack of motivation among the general public to exercise and take care of themselves. However, recently, I spoke with someone who had a different perspective, claiming that lack of motivation isn’t the real issue at all; his name is Dr. Steven Blair. Dr. Blair is currently a professor in the Department of Exercise Health of the University of South Carolina and has received various awards for his research. Before delving into the topic of motivation, Dr. Blair told me a bit about the current study on which he’s working. This epidemiological research, called the LIFE (Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders) study, follows a cohort of 80,000 people whose ages range from 18 to 100.
Regardless of the large sample size, the research on this group has been incredibly thorough and papers are published quite frequently detailing some of the findings. One particularly important finding came from the pilot of this study in which age decline was studied in individuals aged 70 to 90. After separating the participants into two groups, one subjected to a moderate physical activity intervention and the other to a health education intervention, researchers collected data for more than a year. They found that the group subjected to exercise improved their mobility, which supported their hypothesis that exercise can be used as a preventative measure to frailty.
Another study that Blair conducted evaluated cardio-respiratory performance on mortality. Exercise, the researchers discovered, is more important than obesity and fat distribution, or, as Blair put it, “Fitness is more important than fatness.” This means that, regardless of weight, exercise is one of the most important factors in preserving your physical functioning. I found this point fascinating, and I had to ask Dr. Blair what his opinion was on motivating people to become more fit. According to Blair, we don’t lack motivation so much as we lack the cognitive behavioral skills necessary to change our behavior. Because our environment doesn’t encourage us to exercise (poor public transportation, easy accessibility of information online), we need to figure out how to exercise in a way that works for each of us individually. However, without the knowledge of how to self-monitor via goal-setting, problem-solving, and seeking support when we need it, exercising becomes much more difficult.
My conversation with Dr. Blair was quite eye-opening, and for my next post, I’ll be speaking with a colleague of his with whom he worked on the LIFE pilot study. For more information on Dr. Blair, you can visit his profile on the University of South Carolina website at http://www.sph.sc.edu/facultystaffpages/facstaffdetails.php?ID=333. Additionally, Dr. Blair was kind enough to send me several papers on studies he has done. If you’re interested in reading any of those, please send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).