Is It Possible to Oversell Exercise?
How could it be possible to oversell exercise? The benefits for health are tremendous. Regular physical activity can help you live longer, feel better, keep diabetes and heart disease under control, put you in a better mood, and improve your sex life. But one selling point that exercise doesn’t deliver so well is weight loss.
So what? People believe it anyway. Gyms, fitness programs, and people hawking exercise equipment focus on dropping pounds as a key benefit for what they’re selling. Health and wellness writers regularly compile lists of “The Ten Best Exercises for Weight Loss.” Even the Mayo Clinic gives you tips on “Exercise for Weight Loss.”
The thing is that for losing weight, nutrition has a much bigger effect than exercise. You can certainly keep the weight off much better if you exercise, but the notion that you can sweat away the pounds through exercise is a false promise.
False promises are poison for a brand or an idea. Ted Kyle and Diana Thomas are presenting new consumer research (funded by ConscienHealth) on this subject at the Experimental Biology meeting in Boston today. It points to the possibility that overselling the weight loss benefits of exercise may be leading people to become discouraged with exercise.
As the first chart shows, most adults have been led (falsely) to believe that “exercise is a very effective way to lose weight.” Younger people are even more likely to believe this.
The second chart shows that about half of all adults report getting discouraged from exercising because it’s so hard to lose weight with it. Both women and people with obesity were more likely to feel this way.
But Kyle and Thomas also found evidence that people may be open to more realistic promises — that exercise is better for maintaining a healthy weight than for losing weight. Call it compliance, call it persistence, or call it loyalty to the cause of fitness. It doesn’t matter what you call it.
It will be higher if we stop overselling the benefit of exercise for weight loss.
Click here for more details of the research by Kyle and Thomas.
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