Laziness, lack of self-esteem behind physical inactivity

Photo by: Matt Corkill

Research suggests that while people know the benefits of exercise, they don’t exercise as much as they should. Photo by: Matt Corkill

Laziness and a lack of self-efficacy are two reasons why people do not exercise as much as they do, according to UC Irvine doctoral student Svetlana Bershadsky during PsychWeek on May 1 at Saddleback College.

The talk was designed to examine “the psychological influences in exercise,” and why people do not exercise despite knowing the health benefits of regular physical activity.

“Physical inactivity has been identified as a health risk,” Bershadsky said. “The Department of Health released guidelines for physical activity. It includes one hour or more of physical activity, three days a week.”

However, Bershadsky’s research suggests that these guidelines are not being met, especially by young people.

In her presentation, Bershadsky claimed that only 17 percent of adolescents and young people got one hour or more of physical activity three times a week.

“Despite this, adolescents and youth are not active enough,” Bershadsky said.

Bershadsky’s research also suggests that while exercise and physical activity improves mood, relieves stress and helps self-esteem, people are discouraged from working out by scheduling conflicts, laziness, access to facilities and self-efficacy. She added that the last element is key.

Self-efficacy is the state where a person knows they can accomplish a goal or complete a task. Bershadsky’s research studied this, as well as psychological “affect,” in order to determine how people’s psychological states affected their willingness to exercise and be physically active.

One theory brought up was the Theory of Planned Behavior. It suggests that attitudes toward behaviors, subjective norms and perceived behavioral control all factor into whether or not someone will exercise.

“The two main constructs in successfully predicting exercising are self-efficacy and social support,” Bershadsky said.

Bershadsky, along with a team of experts from UCI, did two studies gauging exercise and psychological affect. In both studies, subjects felt better when exercising as opposed to staying inactive. However, most of the test subjects either did not continue to exercise over long periods of time or stopped participating in the study all together.

Bershadsky attributes this to habits and subjects not being monitored when they exercised at home.

“We lost a lot of participants when they worked out at home. Many of them were not exercising at all, or gave incorrect data,” Bershadsky said.

She also attributed this to people’s dispositions.

“There’s research to suggest that how we are feeling during exercise, relates to our disposition,” she said. “What’s missing in the research, so far, is whether or not your affect is stable overtime.”

At the end of the lecture, Bershadsky recommended that positive reinforcement for physical activity came at an early stage in order to create habits that were beneficial to one’s physical and mental health.

“We need to provide the necessary equipment and encouragement,” Bershadsky said.