A survey conducted by Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) shows that while 85 per cent of us want to participate in exercise to improve our health, over 77 per cent of respondents had signed up for an online exercise program of which less than 40 per cent managed to complete.
The recent research that was published right before national Exercise Right Week, which ends tomorrow, indicates Australians fail on following through with their exercise resolutions. In an attempt to instantaneously obtain their ideal body, a significant number of people buy exercise programs randomly advertised on social media, that apart from not offering the most appropriate and effective solution, actually end up being detrimental to their physical condition. They lack awareness about what exercise routine is right for their body, which results in them making ill-informed decisions in the heat of the moment.
As part of Exercise Right Week, ESSA is launching a free pre-screening Exercise Right Quiz, which will help individuals assess how they can exercise using the right professional, in the right place and at the right time. If someone is not sure where to start, their GP can refer them to an accredited exercise physiologist who will tailor an exercise program based on personal characteristics.
The app has been developed as an evidence-based exercise pre-screening tool, to give those who are interested accurate information on what type of exercise professional they need to consult. It provides a series of questions and, based on the participants’ responses, directs users to resources that enable them to make informed decisions about the workout regime best suited to their needs, focusing on specific health conditions.
Speaking to Neos Kosmos, ESSA chief executive officer Anita Hobson-Powell stressed that there is a lot of pressure on society from social media influencer and celebrity stereotypes.
“Often in lifestyle magazines you’ll see someone who has quickly bounced back from pregnancy or lost weight. It makes people think they can lose weight, get fit within weeks,” she noted.
“They’re looking for a similar solution and wonder ‘why could they do it and I can’t?’, but there may be various reasons why a plan worked for someone and not for them.”
According to Ms Hobson-Powell, people are used to instant fame, success and gratification. They do not take into consideration that each person is unique and therefore different rules and limitations apply. When they are not reaching the advertised positive outcome of a one-size-fits-all exercise program in said number of weeks, they end up losing their patience, wondering what is wrong with them, or worse.
“To achieve results, you need behavioural change and ongoing motivation, which in most cases can’t be achieved by a daily text message or email telling you to work harder,” she insisted.
“The low completion rates associated with online exercise programs indicates many people get discouraged and disillusioned about their ability to achieve results when they’re participating in such programs.”
Anne Chaidis, 27, a new mum who has been a little bit up on the scales, tried a speed diet that was not supposed to affect her breastfeeding, but it did.
“I have been following several Instagram accounts that belong to women my age who’ve shed the pregnancy weight fast and they keep posting about how healthy they are.
“I started a fitness course combined with a diet one of the girls was suggesting. She said she was breastfeeding too. Within ten days I had no milk for my baby,” she said.
Thirty-five-year-old Costa Panopoulos, on the other hand, joined a intense workout bootcamp at the gym to get shredded in four weeks. The trainer implied that participants would have to take specific supplements and protein shakes that were “especially designed for this type of workout”.
“Instead of getting shredded, I got my ligaments shredded. I left with bad knees and muscle impairment, because it wasn’t the right program for me,” Costa told Neos Kosmos.
All exercise programs have a place, but it depends on one’s health status and abilities, Ms Hobson-Powell clarified, highlighting that Australians need to be properly educated on how to keep moving over the long term to maintain their weight, increase their physical fitness and to be good role models for the next generation. Consistent long-term exercise, however conservative, has substantial health benefits and reduces the chances of developing chronic conditions, along with proper, qualified nutrition recommendations and guidelines.
“To me there’s nothing wrong with all these programs but not everything works on everyone,” she said, underlining significant impairments that may occur.
“Taking on the wrong workout with the wrong person can be deadly. It is important to avoid being tempted by ‘quick-fix’ online fitness programs and to learn how to exercise correctly and for life.”
Meanwhile, Melbourne-based physiotherapist Billy Kokkalis explained that people did not complete the exercise program possibly due to a lack of cardiovascular fitness or strength, or even lack of motivation.
“Injury could also have been a factor affecting people’s ability to complete an exercise program,” he said.
“Some may have not enjoyed the exercise program hence did not continue with it. Another reason may have been simply not finding time to complete it.”
According to Mr Kokkalis, an exercise program will achieve the desired outcome if the participant can carry it out safely. Individualised programs need to be designed according to each person’s starting cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength.
“Short-term achievable goals need to be set and regular reviews are required to observe progress.
“Every type of workout is definitely not suitable for everyone. This is a recipe for disaster,” he said.
Technique is of paramount importance when carrying out any exercise, hence he insists that people only carry out exercise programs unsupervised when they have perfected their technique.
As even slight loss of form during exercise can lead to serious musculoskeletal injury, he strongly recommends people decide their desired outcome from exercising prior to professional advice about “how to achieve this with an enjoyable workout that is safe and effective”.
“As for quick fix programs,” Mr Kokkalis concludes, “I feel that they are unsustainable for most people, which translates into short term results.
“Due to the generally higher intensity level of exercise with these types of programs, people are more susceptible to injury if they are not already conditioned to this type of strain.”
Key statistics and figures from Exercise and Motivation Survey (May 2016)
– 85% admit they want to exercise to improve their health
– 44% of respondents have been held back from exercise due to illness or injury
– 50% say a lack of time stops them from exercising
– 77% of respondents have signed up for an online exercise program
– More than 60% didn’t complete the online exercise program
– Australians are serious about their health but do not act upon this for a variety of reasons.
– Many Australians are held back from exercising due to illness, injury or a consistent lack of time.
– We are constantly bombarded with ‘fitspiration’ which leads to unrealistic expectations and builds guilt.
– People turn to ‘online experts’ as it seems easy and is marketed effectively.
– Many ‘online experts’ have questionable qualifications.
– This lack of qualifications or adequate goal setting and motivation monitoring skills leads to almost two in three people never completing the exercise program they signed up for.
– The lack of completion is due to the fact that these exercise programs are ‘cookie cut’ programs – one size fits all.
– We are all unique and should exercise the right way for our uniqueness.
* Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) is the peak professional body for exercise and sports science in Australia and provides national leadership and advocacy on key issues. It supports more than 6,000 members and the community through fostering excellence in professional practice, education, training and research.