I just spent $96.68 on tighter thighs.
In September, I purchased a six month gym pass for $187.35. I’ve been twice.
But at least I am not alone. Last year, Morry Patoka, president of H.I.T. Fit gym in Toronto, estimated that as many as 60 percent of Canadians who sign fitness contracts stop going.
What was my reason? Unfortunately, I can’t use the excuse of inconvenience. The entrance to the gym is six blocks from my back door. The day I bought the pass, I felt inspired by the prospect of a healthier body and had images of me hitting the treadmill four times a week. Nearly five months later, my muscles have atrophied, my daily cardio routine involves climbing the university stairs, and my obliques are strengthened using an innovative laptop-to-desk “lift and twist” technique.
A new study published in the journal BMC Public Health shines some light on this phenomenon. According to their findings, confidence is key when it comes to getting regular physical activity.
Using information from over 5,000 cross-country phone interviews, the study examined physical activity levels based on factors, like gender, age, and economic status. Self-efficacy (or confidence in your ability) and intention were found to be the top factors responsible for physical activity levels among Canadians.
Simply put, if you are confident you can engage in physical activity, and you intend to engage in it, you will engage in it!
Students (and homemakers) were found to have lower physical activity levels than people in other areas of endeavour and the lowest self-efficacy levels were found among women and younger people. The researchers attributed perceived barriers, such as personal responsibilities or environmental factors, like accessibility and safety of exercise facilities, to the lower confidence levels among these two groups.
Frequent exercise is linked to a wide range of health benefits. The Mayo Clinic lists weight management, sleep aid, and an improved sex life as some of the perks of exercise. For students, exercise is especially important for regulating high stress levels and maintaining overall brain health.
So, if it is a lack of confidence that is keeping you away from physical activity, try telling yourself that you can do it. This adage has allowed for the success of the fictional figure the Little Engine that Could, and modern-day hero Barack Obama. If “yes we can” inspired millions of Americans to vote, then perhaps “yes I can” can inspire Canadians to get off the couch.
If you’re interested in improving your physical activity self-efficacy, have a look at articles by fitness columnist Phil Delaire, who has compiled a list of mistakes people commonly make at the gym and offers a photo-gallery of tips for keeping your exercise routine fresh. Or, check out Top 42 Exercise Hacks on Zenhabits, a blog that features posts on ways to incorporate Zen teachings into your life.
Remember, exercise can be easy and does not have to involve spending money on a gym pass. For those who take the bus, try getting off a few stops early. Use your coffee break to go for a short walk. Do bicep curls with your milk jug. Lunge from your bed to the shower in the morning. Whatever you choose to do, exercise your confidence!