Why government plans to subsidise health and fitness will go down the pan with the other new years resolutions.
Obesity epidemic. That is what the UK is undergoing along with the USA and a literally growing number of westernised countries. Along with this come more coronary disease, diabetes, hypertension, depression, backache, and morbidity.
In an effort to curb the UK’s headline grabbing declining state of health the government is spending thousands to subsidise individuals in their quest for health. With the well recognised ‘Change For Life’ campaign, the government plans to pay people to get healthy may have good intentions, but will it work?
The Cycle of Exercise
Buckworth and Dishman (2002) suggested that most people undergo a cycle of health and fitness. A pre-contemplation stage of inactivity and no intention to begin exercising is followed by an awareness and contemplation to embark on a health and fitness regime. Preparation to embark on the plan comes next and finally action is taken.
Buckworth and Dishman (2002). Stages of Change Model.
The government intervention may help people in these initial stages of heath and fitness cycle, but in my experience it is not financial reasons that people stop exercising. Once on a programme exercisers usually persevere in the maintenance phase for 4-12 weeks with most people relapsing, without reaching their goals and the cycle continues.
What is the success rate?
Fresh starts in January see a massive rise in gym memberships for the first couple of months of the year. People are keen to start as they mean to go on and so embark on a ‘diet’ of some description, join a gym, or vow to use the membership they pay each month. With the first 2 weeks of the new regime all is well, exercisers are happy, feel good factor, burning off the guilt of Christmas parties and even seeing results when they jump on the scales. But take a look at graph 1 below, which shows what happens in reality.
Graph 1. Illustration of GAS
The graph illustrates what happens on average is that people set a goal that is usually achievable. Examples may include losing a dress size, losing 5kg, getting into your old jeans, reducing blood pressure, or getting ready for a wedding or holiday. I had one client who stuck a picture on the fridge of himself and his wife in swimwear on the beach, and this was his motivation to lose weight.
60% of newcomers who start a health regime will quit in the first 4 weeks. That leaves 11 months of unused and paid-for gym membership! As a result of the GAS the first few weeks show results, and motivation is high, however this progress slows and motivation wanes. Individuals’ battle on, eating even less, exercising more and results start to regress by week 6. The hard work is not paying off, feelings of monotony set in and the relapse stage sets in. After all what is the point in a restrictive diet and time consuming exercise if it has no effect? Unfortunately most people do not know how to progress their programme at week four and poor results see many failed new years resolutions, unattained goals and often money wasted!
40% of people will stick to their plan and only 15% will reach their health or fitness goal. Of those who do reach their goal, 90% will employ a decent personal trainer to reach it.
Will money help?
Exercise can be free, or you can pay for gym use or a swimming pool. Either way if you don’t get results that you want you will not persevere with it. I suggest that paying for people to get healthy may be beneficial by getting people in to the gym, off the sofa and considering what they eat, but without the knowledge they need to keep getting the results they want the maintenance phase of their healthy lifestyle will be short lived and will soon relapse to the sofa.
If you feel you need help in progressing your health and fitness please contact us. If you are in Belfast I highly recommend Donna McMullan. For nutrition advice in the North West of England contact Louise at The Runners Centre.