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The Great Fitness Scam

Bry_Fitness70Bry_Fitness70 Member Posts: 2,484 Member Member Posts: 2,484 Member
In a nutshell, the US leads the world in fitness spending but is 143rd in the world in fitness participation. So we love our fitness gear, fitness trackers, and gym memberships, but don't actually care to use them to improve our fitness. :'(


The Great Fitness Scam
The United States leads the world in spending for health and fitness but still ranks lowest in measurements of actual health. How do we break the cycle?

https://outsideonline.com/2409177/america-health-fitness-spending?utm_source=sms&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=onsiteshare&utm_source=GetShift-dot-net#close

A new report from the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit focused on research in preventative health and wellness, found that Americans spent $264.6 billion dollars on physical activity in 2018, far more than any other nation. The United States leads the world in spending for every segment, including fitness classes ($37 billion), sports and recreation ($58 billion), apparel and footwear ($117 billion), equipment and supplies ($37.5 billion), mindful movement, such as yoga ($10 billion), and related technology ($8.1 billion). And yet, according to the academic journal The Lancet, for all of this spending, we rank 143rd globally for actual participation in physical activity. More than 40 percent of Americans fail to meet the global standard of 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity (e.g., fast-paced walking, gardening) or 75 minutes per week of intense physical activity (e.g., running, strength training).

This data largely mirrors what we know about health care. The U.S. spends, by far, the most money of any developed nation on health care per person but ranks toward the bottom (if not last) on common measures of actual health, such as chronic disease, life expectancy, infant mortality, disability, and drug-related deaths. This is not surprising, given that insufficient physical activity, along with poor diet, is the second leading cause of preventable death, only behind smoking.

Underlying Causes
The Global Wellness Institute listed a few causes for the discrepancy between dollars spent on physical activity in the our country and actual participation: we don’t have enough sidewalks or bike lanes, youth sports have become too expensive and hypercompetitive, we lack a supportive and communal exercise culture.

In addition, the health and fitness industry has become obsessed with complexity. Sometimes this is warranted, but often it’s not. One reason people make things complex is so they can sell them. It’s hard to monetize the basics, but come up with an intricate and sexy-sounding approach to something and people will pay for it. So why are so many of us willing to fork over cash for often unnecessary services? Perhaps because complexity is a way to avoid facing the reality that what really matters for health and fitness is simply showing up and doing the work. Not thinking about it or talking about it. Just doing it.

The more complex you make something, the easier it is to get excited about, talk about, and maybe even get started—but the harder it is to stick with over the long haul. Complexity gives you excuses and ways out and endless options for switching things up all the time. Simplicity is different. You can’t hide behind simplicity. You have to show up, day in and day out, and pound the stone.

What We Can Do About It
It’s time to go back to basics. For nutrition, Michael Pollan famously offered the advice: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” For fitness, I’d like to add: move your body often, sometimes hard, every bit counts.

A common excuse is that people don’t have time to exercise. While this may be true if you’re working multiple jobs and struggling to meet your basic needs, it’s simply not true for the majority of people. A recent study of 32,000 Americans by the think tank Rand found that, on average, Americans have more than 4.5 hours per day of leisure time, the vast majority of which is spent sitting in front of screens. This finding was consistent across income, age, gender, and ethnicity.

Even if you insist that you’re too busy to exercise because you work some kind of important job, you ought to consider reframing exercise as an essential part of that important job. Research shows that regular exercise increases creative thinking and problem-solving, improves mood and emotional control, and enhances focus and energy. There is no line of work that doesn’t benefit from those attributes.

Physical activity is not rocket science, and it doesn’t need to cost billions of dollars. It’s actually quite simple—but simple doesn’t always mean easy. If you need more inspiration or information, below are some past columns of mine that can help you on your path. You can also follow me on Twitter, where I share daily tips and tricks backed by the latest evidence.

The minimalist strength workout that you can do at home with little to no equipment.
Fast-paced walking gets you 99 percent of the way there when it comes to regular exercise.
The best fitness tracker is not some fancy technology, it’s a training partner or community.
The latest psychological science on how to stick to a new training plan.
The latest science on exercise and depression.

Brad Stulberg (@Bstulberg)
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Replies

  • paperpuddingpaperpudding Member Posts: 5,819 Member Member Posts: 5,819 Member
    I think there is a happy medium between doing an excercise and expecting it to be fun filled joy/excitement all the time and pushing yourself to do an excercise you hate because excercise is good for you.

    So, find an excercise you enjoy isnt bad advice - the only bad part would be taking that advice to extreme and interpreting it as find an excercise that is non stop excitement/ joy

    I find that the hard part is sometimes getting there, not doing the actual excercise - for example, I am in a walking group and we walk every Fri morning at 6;30.

    The actual walk is always enjoyable - light excercise, good company - but the hard part is getting out of bed to get there and resisting temptation to press snooze too many times and oops its too late now.

    I find what helps me is accountability or 'forced adherence' - I am in a group, they expect me to be there, I walk to work, there is then no other way to get home but walking back, team sports that you have to turn up for, a dog that needs a walk whether you want to or not.....


    Disclosure: 56 year old woman who does not go to gyms.
    but at least I know that and dont join one thinking I will go but then dont.
  • janejellyrolljanejellyroll Member Posts: 23,060 Member Member Posts: 23,060 Member
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    I think one of the biggest obstacles to regular exercise for many people is the idea that good exercise will be consistently exciting and joyful and will never feel like work.

    I watch a lot of infomercials for fun and with exercise programs, a frequent phrase is "It doesn't feel like a workout."

    Which is a ridiculous way to think of exercise. I love exercise, it's a key component of my life. It brings me great joy. It's also sometimes hard. It's hard to get up at 5:30 AM on the days when that's the best fit for your workout. It's hard to keep going for another set or mile when you're tired. It's hard to turn down that extra drink at happy hour because you know you want to do a long run the next day.

    Looking at popular culture, all the messages are "Find a workout that you love" with the idea that it won't feel like a workout. We should love our workouts. But they're still going to feel physically difficult sometimes (that's the point!). I'm not talking about pain or injuring ourselves, but if we expect to always feel motivated by our inner spark that makes each moment of every workout feel like pure joy, we are not going to be consistent. And when we're not consistent, it's hard to develop the level of fitness that makes exercise truly sustainable.

    So now we've got all these boutique fitness places that trade on promising constant joy at each moment, we've got Beachbody-style workouts that promise you won't even notice you're exercising, we've got devices that make you think tracking your data will be so fun it will be sufficient motivation to get you exercising, we've got clothing ads that kinda make it look like putting on the clothes is enough to get you active somehow. It's ridiculous.

    I'm not saying don't do boutique classes. If you find them fun and can afford them, knock yourself out! I have a Fitbit myself. I'm just saying that as a culture we seem to expect a trick that will somehow make exercise like not-exercise. I know I spent too many years thinking I hadn't found the right exercise technique or product because sometimes my exercise was dull or because I didn't bounce out of bed every morning full of excitement for my workout. There was nothing wrong with me. I'm just a person who finds push-ups dull and no product is going to "fix" that.

    I feel like the complete opposite (-ish?) of this is also true: People often seem to think that if something isn't miserable and exhausting, it isn't actually beneficial exercise. They believe they need to go to the gym, and do some arduous, boring, gasping, mega-sweating thing, in order to get any decent results.

    That, too, is a myth.

    Sure, effort is important, and things can't be super-fun every minute. But it's rarely necessary to be literally exhausted and miserable on the road to reasonable fitness for an everyday person, in my opinion.

    Yes, you're so right. We see that opposite (and also, with diet, people feeling that anything less than a punishing deficit won't do when trying to lose weight).

    Fitness should rarely be literally exhausting, painful, or miserable.
  • NovusDiesNovusDies Member, Premium Posts: 7,714 Member Member, Premium Posts: 7,714 Member
    The concept of spending a lot of money on fitness items that you never use seems related to ordering a McDonalds super-sized Big Mac value meal and having a diet coke with it. It makes you feel like you are doing something to further your wellness, even though you are actually doing very little to actually benefit your wellness.

    Ideally, your fitness regimen is a combination of things you enjoy and things that are very effective, in the sense that you get the most return for your time and effort. If I only have an hour, I want the maximum benefit from exercising in that hour - I believe that running and weight lifting are the top exercises that provide this. These are also the least amount of fun. There are days when I need to prioritize recovery and do activities with less impact, so I do the elliptical, cycle, or swim. These are more enjoyable and easier to find motivation for.

    There is merit to this theory. It is a common problem when establishing a new habit or engaging in a new enterprise to mistake doing the support work for doing the actual work. An example would be if I wanted to learn how to paint I might spend money getting the necessary equipment and I might even get some books and read them but none of it is actually painting a picture.

    It is kind of like that guy you know that is constantly talking about opening a new business. He discusses his ideas with you at length. He goes on fact finding trips. He makes contacts in the necessary industry. It always sounds like he is a couple of months from opening it but years go by and it is all sizzle and no steak.
  • janejellyrolljanejellyroll Member Posts: 23,060 Member Member Posts: 23,060 Member
    I think of it like this: my day-to-day fitness may not always be fun (I didn't particularly enjoy my three miles on the treadmill at 6 AM), but keeping up with it allows me to do the things I do find fun (the run alongside the river this weekend).

    Yeah, I could just do the fun stuff . . . but then it wouldn't be as fun, as I wouldn't have the training base for the longer runs that I really enjoy.

    I think there are (at least) two groups of people. There are people who see fitness as something purely functional. It wouldn't be surprising that these people would want to focus on the most efficient exercises. And there are those of us who get great personal satisfaction from certain fitness activities (runners and cyclists come to mind, among others). Even though running may not be the absolute best use of my fitness time, that doesn't matter to me because it's like a hobby that I do for the love of it, it just has the bonus of keeping me fit.

    For some other aspects of fitness (like resistance training), I am way more functional. I do the exercises that I believe will support my running and those that support overall muscle mass for my health. I'm not like some of these people here who truly enjoy resistance training, so it gives me some insight into how those that don't have a favorite cardio activity are approaching that.
  • magnusthenerdmagnusthenerd Member Posts: 1,169 Member Member Posts: 1,169 Member
    Not sure how well one can get a buy in if people never find a way to actually enjoy the workout. Extrinsic motivation seems to be a rather weak motivator.

    If I'm overgeneralizing and it is just we need to have people realistically accept some workouts are going to suck, but you might need to get through them anyway, sure.

    I think part of the problem for fitness routines is with weight being such a problem, exercise and weight loss are interlinked, but weight loss adds a big component to the suck of any exercise. In a deficit, jogging for a mile can be a grinding chore. At maintenance, it can quickly become surprising how doable 10k, then 10mi becomes, with a certain bit of that runner's euphoria at the end - that part never seems to show up in deficits.

    Not to mention that many forms of exercise feel easier or are more enjoyable when one is within a healthy weight range and at a decent level of fitness, at least in my experience.

    Running at 155 pounds feels a lot different to me than running at 115.

    When you're new to fitness, it's sometimes hard to understand that the specific way that it's hard won't be that way forever. When your body isn't used to moving a lot, it feels so awkward to move. Now that my body is used to moving, I still have hard workouts but they're not hard in the same way that getting basic fitness is hard.

    I wouldn't know, if I ever ran at 155, it was before I was a teenager.

    I do remember the worst run of my life was trying to get under a 10 minute mile and I was still around or over 200. I think I was 5-15 seconds off. I was sure I was going to puke in the bathroom at the store I went to after, and just barely kept it in.
    In the 160s I didn't feel anything like that running a faster pace for 13 miles.
  • janejellyrolljanejellyroll Member Posts: 23,060 Member Member Posts: 23,060 Member
    NovusDies wrote: »
    I think of it like this: my day-to-day fitness may not always be fun (I didn't particularly enjoy my three miles on the treadmill at 6 AM), but keeping up with it allows me to do the things I do find fun (the run alongside the river this weekend).

    Yeah, I could just do the fun stuff . . . but then it wouldn't be as fun, as I wouldn't have the training base for the longer runs that I really enjoy.

    I think there are (at least) two groups of people. There are people who see fitness as something purely functional. It wouldn't be surprising that these people would want to focus on the most efficient exercises. And there are those of us who get great personal satisfaction from certain fitness activities (runners and cyclists come to mind, among others). Even though running may not be the absolute best use of my fitness time, that doesn't matter to me because it's like a hobby that I do for the love of it, it just has the bonus of keeping me fit.

    For some other aspects of fitness (like resistance training), I am way more functional. I do the exercises that I believe will support my running and those that support overall muscle mass for my health. I'm not like some of these people here who truly enjoy resistance training, so it gives me some insight into how those that don't have a favorite cardio activity are approaching that.

    Very much this.

    The recipe for feeling your best and doing the things you truly enjoy has some ingredients that by themselves are not always pleasant. I hate being on a cholesterol med. Many mornings it makes me really feel bad. Sometimes that lasts all day. I require myself to do 30 minutes of cardio each morning in hopes that I can get rid of that medication finally.

    Being perpetually out of shape for a very long time I can tell you there is not even a vacation spot that is so great that being out of shape won't still dampen the experience. Alternatively now that I am starting to be in better shape I went to a kind of meh vacation spot not long ago and I had a blast because I could do everything much more easily than before. Exercise ripples outward through so many areas of our lives.

    Yes, I have a family member who is no longer able to do some of the things that she loves due to her weight and the impact to her joints over the years. They were things I'd never connected with fitness previously. For example, she loves art but she can no longer spend hours walking through a museum.

    Until you're in a position to experience it or witness it in someone close, I don't know if you really contemplate it (at least I never did).

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