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Is the fitness industry turning people off exercise?

Is the fitness industry turning people off exercise?
August 6, 2015

A survey of 1,400 people conducted by Nine Rewards for female-fitness group Curves has found that one-in-three Australians are avoiding exercise altogether because they're embarrassed to be seen exercising.

In addition, 46% of respondents said they have had feelings of anxiety at the thought of attending a gym.

Analysing these findings, a recently published feature by Kasey Edwards at Daily Life, interviewed clinical psychologist Louise Adams.

Adams, who runs a weight management clinic, has long suspected that people don't avoid exercise because they don't like exercising but that they avoid it because they don't like their bodies - and they fear the way other people will judge their bodies.

Adams blames what she calls the "pornification of exercise" for contributing to people's avoidance of physical activity.

Adams explained “part of why people are anxious about exercising is because we are supposed to be sexy and physically perfect when we do it.

“We see images of women in tiny shorts and crop tops and this makes people feel inadequate (and) the more we are exposed to images of physical perfection, the more depressed and angry we get.

“This doesn't motivate; it makes us feel worse and we want to hide."

At the other end of the spectrum, people are bombarded with unflattering pictures of fat people and 'public health' messages about how they're going to die untimely deaths. And as numerous failed anti-obesity advertising campaigns highlight, fear and shame don't help people make healthy decisions in the long term.

Former trainer for The Biggest Loser and Director and Trainer at Melbourne's Urban Workout, Andrew Meade says that the exercise industry is often a terrible ambassador for health and wellness.

Meade explains “it perpetuates the stereotype of ego-maniac meatheads who are unbalanced and totally obsessed with their bodies.

"There needs to be more places for people to work-out in a comfortable environment where they won't feel judged all the time."

One-third of survey respondents also said that they feared getting hurt at the gym, which is not surprising given the mythology that exercise has to be painful to be beneficial.

Far from being motivational, 'fitspiration' and 'thinspiration' quotes like ‘Go hard or go home’ and images of people who have been sedentary for 20 years crying and vomiting from the exhaustion of pulling trucks on shows like The Biggest Loser are turning people off exercise.

Meade adds “people should be pushed to a level that is adequate for them, rather than smashing a person so hard that they leave by crawling down the stairs.

“They're not going to enjoy it or want to come back if they can't walk the next day... but there is a belief in the industry that we need to punish people during a workout. It's totally unnecessary and it's something that the industry needs to address."

People's fear of being hurt during exercise is not unfounded.

Physiotherapist and author of Fit Not Healthy, Vanessa Alford questions the education of some personal trainers, saying that many lack the knowledge to keep their clients safe.

Alford, who has taught the Diploma of Fitness, explains “it scares me how little knowledge some personal trainers have in the areas of anatomy, physiology, musculoskeletal conditions and rehabilitation.

"Extensive knowledge in these areas is essential to ensure exercises prescribed to clients are appropriate, safe and effective."

Based on the research, it would appear that intimidating gym environments, 'no pain no gain' attitudes, and the obsession with aesthetics are major reasons why people don't want to exercise.

Adams adds “people need to motivate themselves from kindness rather than fear and shame.

"The literature shows that lasting health behaviours come from self-care, from being your own best friend. That's what is missing in the exercise industry."

Click here to read the original article by Kasey Edwards at Daily Life.

Click here to visit Nine Rewards.





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