We have all heard about the health benefits of exercise and how nutrition plays such an important part in maintaining your healthy and longevity. So if we have been told these things and understand them - why do so many people not follow the suggestions and guidelines that will help them live longer healthier lives? Why are almost half of the American population overweight or obese? Why are 40% of all Americans suffering from diabetes (or pre-diabetics conditions)? Why are 8 of the top 10 causes of death related to health issues which can be reversed by exercise and nutrition, but people still ignore the solution? Why are people SO reluctant to be healthy?
I have spent a good part of my professional life looking at our health, fitness and over-all wellness - trying to understand why we are motivated to do some of the things we do and make the decisions we make. I've tried to discover why people will avoid doing things could enhance their lives and more readily embrace behaviors which not only have little value to them, but in some instances may cause them more harm than good.
In my many years of observational study, I've discovered that people have very basic motivational components - a basic "what's in it for me" concept. This theory, known as Personal Investment Theory, was developed in the 1980's by Martin Maehr & Larry Braskamp to help large businesses understand and motivate their workers - but it is much more than that. I have found it is the key to motivation in all our human behaviors. To sum it up simply, the basis of the theory states that we will work harder and longer to achieve a goal, if we feel that we will receive something worthwhile from our efforts. So if we feel we gain something valuable for all our work - we will put in the work necessary.
So why isn't it that simple? Longer life, healthier life, looking better, feeling better? Sounds like a pretty good payoff to me. It has been shown in studies that 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise each week can increase a person's life expectancy by almost 5 years (even more in some cases). But yet people scoff at the thought of exercise and a proper nutritional program.
The key is still within the Personal Investment Theory, or PIT theory - as I like to call it. Maehr and Braskamp's theory says that there are three requirements to personal motivation. The first is a goal that has enough value to the individual - so if someone does not see a healthy lifestyle as being valuable, they won't put in the work necessary to obtain it. The second thing necessary is personal ability or personal mastery. The individual has to see themselves are being able to obtain the goal - they must believe they have the capacity to achieve the goal through their work or they will not put in the effort. Lastly, they have to review their perceived obstacles and options. What are the things that will prevent them from achieving their goals and what are the options available to conquer their obstacles? When these three criteria are met a person makes a change in their behavior pattern to achieve their goal.
So what still stops people....NEXT TIME - HOW PERSONAL INVESTMENT THEORY CAN WORK TO IMPROVE HEALTH AND WHY IT DOESN'T FOR SOME PEOPLE