Are workouts based on fear sustainable?

Our fitness blogger James Fell looks at whether a near-death experience can act as a motivator for positive change.

Find something you love to do to motivate long-term health changes.

Find something you love to do to motivate long-term health changes.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that fear of death isn’t a great lifestyle motivator.

The study looked at the habits of 153,996 adults (aged 35 to 70) recently diagnosed with heart disease or having recently experience a stroke event. Based on smoking cessation, dietary changes and exercise adoption it found, “the prevalence of healthy lifestyle behaviours was low.” Only one-third adopted an exercise program at all.

Granted a health scare can be an initial impetus to start thinking about exercise (and adopting other healthy behaviours), it has no staying power. Changing the way you live your life just to stave off heart disease will get tiresome.

You must progress past fear, and quickly.

An interim step can be a sense of duty. Duty to yourself to live better, but also duty to others, like family, to stick around a little longer; to be healthier in order to fulfill your commitments as a parent and/or spouse, perhaps.

But even duty has its limits. Most people do things because they want to. Long-term adherence to any lifestyle is about finding something you love.

Passion is key. Fear may get you started, but to stick with an exercise program long term it’s important to start with an idea that you’re going to learn to embrace the good feelings that come along with it. This in turn may prevent the health scare in the first place.

If you want to ignite a positive change in your health, and more importantly, if you want to stick with it, you must learn to love the journey.

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