According to the latest research, emphasising the emotional benefits of exercise is more effective at increasing levels of (teenage) physical activity than highlighting traditional health benefits.
Or, to put it in layman’s terms…
- Teens like to do fun stuff
- They don’t like to do stuff that is “good for them”
But seriously, there is evidence showing that people who believe that physical activity is enjoyable and fun are more likely to engage in sport and exercise. To test this concept, researchers investigated whether highlighting the emotional benefits of sport and exercise to young people increased their levels of physical activity.”
To test their hypothesis, the researchers sent different types of SMS messages to kids (ages 16-19) encouraging them to “get active”.
- Group 1 received messages that highlighted the emotional benefits of physical activity such as ‘Physical activity can make you feel cheerful. What activity will you do today?’ and ‘Physical activity can make you feel more enthusiastic. What activity will you do today?’.
- Group 2 received messages that highlighted the physical health benefits of exercise such as ‘Physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight. What activity will you do today?’ and ‘Physical activity can keep your heart healthy. What activity will you do today?’.
- Group 3 received a combination of the two messages – emotional one week, practical the next week.
- Group 4 was the control group.Their SMS messages contained only the final element of the phrase used in the intervention groups, ‘What activity will you do today?’ for comparability.
Analysis of the results found that the physical activity levels of all 128 participants increased after the two-week intervention by an average 31.5 minutes of moderate activity a week.
Amongst the naturally active kids, overall activity increased a little bit, but none of the 4 text messages stood out as being more effective than the others.
But… in the naturally inactive group, the teenagers who received the texts which highlighted the emotional benefits of exercise performed 120 additional minutes of moderate exercise.
That’s 4x the overall average.
It’s also the cure for teenage obesity.
If we want our teens to get active, get healthy & drop a few pounds, we need to forget about motivating them with logic. Logic ain’t gonna work……We need to motivate with emotion…with fun.