Promoting the Healthy Message
The human body is by such intelligent design that there is no place to hide. Truly. Whatever choices you make as it pertains to physical fitness, will play itself back to you at some point in time. Despite the tendency for humans to deceive themselves into thinking that ‘things will be okay,’ the body holds the score.
This characteristic of the body is often viewed in a negative light, such that it is a ‘bad’ thing that we can’t always just ‘get away’ with what we want to do. But that is because there are individuals who would like to adopt behaviours that they know to be detrimental in the long run. However, the body also holds the score for the behaviours you seek that are beneficial. Every choice that you make towards improving your health will pay dividends at some point in time.
Why is it then, that there seems to be an emphasis on the negative consequences of unhealthy behaviour, and not the opposite? Why is it that we learn sedentary behaviour is a risk factor for obesity – more quickly than we learn that movement improves cognitive performance? I believe it comes down to the emotional magnitude of the event that occurs as a consequence of either behaviour.
It feels much worse to know that your friend’s father has passed away from a heart attack after 30 years of obesity, then it is ‘good’ to hear about your friend’s father who has lived on with no issues for the last 30 years. You see, the best case scenario for those that adopt healthy behaviours is that nothing related to lifestyle disease occurs to them. You don’t hear about them.
If you had to grade how ‘happy’ you feel that your friend’s father continues to live problem-free, versus how ‘sad’ you felt that your friend’s father died after obesity, you’d probably give very different answers. I would guess that it didn’t make you that much happier. But I can bet that seeing your friend’s father pass is definitely sad.
We are creatures that fear loss more than we appreciate gain. If I gave you a 50/50 chance of losing, you wouldn’t take the bet. If I gave you a 51/49 win/loss odds, I think most people would still rather not take the bet. Perhaps it comes from our ancestral days of being hunter and gatherers in times of scarcity. We are always preparing for a famine that may or may not ever come.
The issue with this nuance of human behaviour is this – health is not tangible like money. We can go years without feeling like we’ve ‘lost’ anything, but we may be slowly depreciating in health. When we do find out how far we’ve fallen behind, quite often we have reached a problematic event that may or may not be reversible. By that time, could we run the risk of being too late?
I believe so. Therefore, an active, positive side of health should be promoted, however it remains unclear how this could be done. Telling the younger population that being healthy will result in a better quality of life is fact. However, this is not something they will appreciate until they get to later life. In the same thread, educating people that a healthy exercise routine will improve brain function, sleep, appetite, and mood levels are also fact. Enticing though? Only to a small group of people.
Of course, one of the best ways to get people moving is already being done – which is by appealing to someone’s vanity. It is enticing to have that ‘great body’ seen on magazines and movies. It fuels one of the most basic instincts of the human species. Biological attraction. Is this a sustainable long-term message? I think you’ll find arguments for and against.
So what do we do? I believe the best thing we can do for now is know that physical activity can be promoted in a multitude of ways, and people will engage in training for any number of reasons. Where we can, we should illuminate the other positives of exercise that don’t include mortality and morbidity.