Researchers at the University of Missouri found that adults who simply were told what to do increased their physical activity levels, while people educated with logical reasons as to why fitness is important didn’t feel very inclined to make lifestyle changes.
Just Do It
The study, featured in the American Journal of Public Health, looked at data from 358 reports and close to 100,000 participants. It found that telling people what to do (“behavioral strategies”) was much more likely to engage people in physical activities than simply giving them logical reasons as to why fitness is important for health (“cognitive strategies”).
Vicki Coon, the study’s lead scientist, said that this might be the case because we “can’t ‘think’ ourselves into being more active” – on which I disagree, because I got back into fitness and lost weight, exactly because I thought it through.
Are People Sheep?
This leaves an interesting question: Do people prefer not to think for themselves? The study also found that advice given face-to-face about what to do was more successful than when given on the phone or via mail – which may leave us to assume that people are influenced by the authority of the person giving the advice.
This is without a doubt easier than using your own brain, but I so far strongly believed that having people understand the reasoning behind advice was integral.
In my opinion, if you treat things this way and as soon as you remove the authority figure that tells them how they should go about their lifestyle, people lapse back into their old behavior. You effectively make them dependent on you and that is the last thing that should happen.
Picture courtesy of “lululemon athletica“.