Diabetes Forecast

Views on Exercise Impact Activity Level

By Matt McMillen , ,

Photo Credit: Yacobchuk/BigStock

What to Know

Many people consider exercise an obligation rather than an activity to enjoy, and that attitude often leads them to quit the gym or otherwise avoid working out. When you do that, you miss out on the many benefits of exercise, including improved blood glucose management and heart health, weight loss, mood boosts, and more. Could a different way of looking at your workout make you more likely to exercise on a regular basis? This study examined how women’s views on exercise influenced the likelihood that they were physically active.

The Study

Researchers recruited 40 African American, Latino, and white women between the ages of 22 and 49. The average participant was obese, based on body mass index (BMI, a ration of height to weight used to calculate body fat). The study did not indicate whether any of the women had diabetes. Participants described their physical activity levels and their feelings about exercise, then answered questions about what makes them feel happy and successful. The researchers analyzed that information to determine if the women’s attitudes toward exercise and happiness made them less likely to be physically active.

The Results

Exercisers and non-exercisers shared similar priorities, such as connecting with others and relaxing during free time. Although the 29 less-active women recognized the importance of exercise for health, their attitudes sapped their motivation. They believed workouts must be regimented and intense, and they felt pressure to exercise for health reasons, such as weight loss. For them, it was not a way to enjoy their leisure time. The 11 active women, on the other hand, were more likely to view physical activity as an opportunity to relax and socialize—taking walks with friends and/or family, for example—and their exercise schedules were more flexible. The active women also were more likely to be overweight, while the less-active women were more likely to be obese.


Rethink exercise, and you may be more likely to do it. Women often feel pressured to exercise, and that’s not a good motivator over the long term. Instead, consider your workout a time to relax and connect with friends by pursuing walks, bike rides, or runs, either outdoors or at the gym. You’ll have fun and also achieve your exercise goals. Although the study participants were diverse, the authors note that the group was small. Also, its results apply only to women.

Rethinking physical activity communication: using focus groups to understand women’s goals, values, and beliefs to improve public health.” Michelle Segar, Jennifer M. Taber, Heather Patrick, Chan L. Thai, and April Oh. BMC Public Health, published online May 18, 2017. 17; 462.

The information on this screen does not take the place of care from your doctor or other health care provider. If you have general questions about diabetes or diabetes-related research, e-mail askada@diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2382).



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