One of the questions personal trainers get most often is:
What’s the best type of exercise?
Should I take up running? Lift weights? Take yoga? Join a crossfit class?
And the answer to that question is:
“Whatever you will do most consistently”.
Consistency is more critical for long term health benefits than any other factor, including intensity, time, form or type of exercise.
Basically, you just have to keep on given’ er.
And because exercise adherence is so important (and – let’s face it – elusive. How are those New Years Resolutions going?), they’ve done a lot of studies on this. And there are certain factors that can predict whether or not you will adhere to your exercise program.
When I teach the Psychology chapter of the Personal Training Certification course, I love to play a game with my students. I make them guess what kind of influence certain factors have on exercise adherence.
And now I’m going to play it with you:
Gender: Who is more likely to exercise consistently throughout their life? Men or Women?
This is my favourite question because it variably sets off an amusing battle of the sexes among my Personal Training students.
Someone will usually make the argument that women face more social pressure to ‘look a certain way’ and therefore are more likely to adhere to exercise programs.
At that point, a man will usually protest and say that men face an equal amount of pressure to look big and masculine.
(It was during one of these debates that I learned from a 20 year old guy in my class that the weight training section of the gym is often busy on Friday and Saturday nights because ‘dudes wanna get their pump on right before they go to the club so their muscles are all swollen and they look good in their T shirts’. For some reason, I found that oddly touching.)
So – who is more likely to exercise consistently?
Statistically, men are more likely to adhere to exercise throughout their lives. Which came as a surprise to me as a trainer as I would say that 75% of my clients are women.
However, as a woman/ mum, I’m maybe not as surprised. I think there are more ‘exit’ points for women as they go through puberty (does anyone else remember when all the girls stopped participating in gym class?), motherhood and menopause.
I also think part of this has to do with the fact that men are more likely to play team sports – and as you’ll learn below- team activities are the way to go when it comes to exercise adherence.
Are people more likely to exercise consistently as they get older? Or less?
Less. Statistically, the older you are, the less likely you are to continue to exercise.
BUT. I think this is changing, and changing fast. The baby boomers are by far the most active generation of older adults we’ve seen in history.
In my personal experience, my clients who are mid-life (and beyond) are some of my most consistent and energetic clients and most likely to take on a challenge.
Obviously, this is a self-selecting group of people in their 50’s and 60’s who join a 6am Bootcamp program. But it sure is satisfying when a 50 year old joins my Bootcamp and they try to tell me that they are too old to do high intensity work and then I can point to the 58 year old woman who’s been coming for a year and is now doing full unassisted pull ups.
On one of our field trips this year we saw this and we all loved it:
If you are overweight, are you more likely to continue to exercise because you are motivated to lose weight? Or are you less likely to workout because it’s hard, or embarrassing?
This is a totally neutral factor in determining exercise adherence. So for all you lovely people who tell me:
“I’d like to join a gym but I have to lose some weight first”
Just go. You will not be alone.
And no one at the gym cares that you are overweight. They aren’t looking at you. They are looking at themselves in the mirror:
Exercise intensity and Type A personality type:
The Hard Cores. We assume that they are going to giver to the end, right?
We all have one of them in our Facebook feed. Or maybe you blocked them. Because all they do is post about their insane 1 rep max and how their eyeballs starting bleeding at Crossfit but that’s why they love it.
Participating in extremely intense exercise and having a Type A personality are both negatively associated with exercise adherence.
Type A personalities will tend to go too hard, too fast and either get injured or burn out.
Remember – the key to success is consistency.
Education and Income/Socio-Economic Status:
What do we think? Are the rich and well-educated most likely to exercise consistently?
This is a bit of a no-brainer. Having a higher education and a high socio-economic status are both strongly related to exercise adherence.
But if you are PHD-free and a bit on the broke side, it doesn’t mean that you can’t educate yourself.
In fact, the statistics also show that – regardless of academic credentials – the more you know about exercise (technique, benefits, self-monitoring), the more likely you are to exercise. Fortunately, there is this awesome blog that will tell you everything you need to know. 😉
PS- If you watching your fitness budget, grab my curated list of the best FREE fitness on web.
I’m sure you will guess this one – social support is one of the biggest factors that will predict whether or not you stick with your exercise program. But what matters most – your spouse or your trainer? Your doctor or your workout buddy?
In general, social support is everything. People who do group programs are 600% more likely to continue with their exercise program.
Interestingly, a doctor encouraging you to exercise has absolutely zero impact on whether or not you will exercise. But support from your family of origin (your parents), your friends and your trainer and gym staff are all huge factors in your success.
But the biggest influencer is your spouse. In some studies, the spouse’s influence had even more impact than the exerciser’s desire to get in shape.
In my experience, it is very tough to train someone who does not have the support of their spouse. It’s hard enough to make lifestyle changes, but if you have a spouse who makes you feel guilty about spending the time to workout, or who complains about healthy meals, you will be fighting a losing battle.
On the other hand, if you and your spouse commit to exercising together, your chances of success increase exponentially. I love it when I get couples participating in my programs. Check out this post today from one of my 28 Day Transformation Challenge participants about her husband (also in the program):
So now you’ve learned that the person most likely to exercise is a young, rich and educated man with a supportive wife. About time that demographic caught a break, amiright?!
But whatever. Fight the power. You aren’t a statistic. You are someone who is going to get educated about exercise, get a support network….and then just keep on givin’ er.
Did any of these surprise you? Leave a commend below and let me know what is the biggest factor in your exercise consistency?