What the Olympics tell us about why we struggle with exercise motivation

Despite all the controversy around the Olympics, it is one of the most incredible, and awe inspiring spectacles of human motivation and potential!

A patient pointed out this week that Americans have many more athletes than the majority of countries. The 613 athletes from the USA tell us something about why we struggle with exercising regularly.

She was always an athlete and had never considered that she would struggle with motivating to exercise when she got older. Exercise was a huge part of her young adult life. She recalled our previous conversation about the difference between exercising for athletics and exercising for health. This was something she never considered. By shifting her mindset from athletics to health, she was free from the confusion about why she was so stuck at this point in her mid adult life.

Typical Olympic athletes train for 8 hours a day. They have a team of coaches telling them what to do. Tom Daley, Olympic gold medalist for diving said the gold medal was the first thing he thought about when he woke up and the last thing he though about when he went to bed every night for the past four years.

Even if you are not going for gold, being an athlete takes a lot of time and energy. To excel you need to put in many hours of practice and have coaches who push you beyond your limits. The average age of Olympic athletes this year is 26 for women and 27 for men, which means you need to do this from a very young age. Your whole life is dedicated to your sport.

The fact that the USA has the most Olympic athletes, as this patient pointed out, reflects how much our culture values competing and winning. We love our sports. We love the competition. We love winning. This is why most of the funding for exercise research goes to studying how to improve athletic performance, not health. This is why the athletic model of exercise has infiltrated our exercise trends, equipment, and expectations, creating a huge amount of confusion about what it takes to exercise to be healthy.

This is just not realistic for the vast majority of us want to be healthy.

We don’t have eight hours a day to exercise, even finding 30 minutes is a challenge. We don’t have coaches telling us what to do. Even if you have a trainer, affording one for your whole exercise ‘career’ is not so feasible. For most of us, the first thing we think about in the morning and last thing at night is not exercise; it’s our family, our home, our work, and all the other parts of life we value. Those are the reasons we want to be healthy well beyond our mid twenties! Being healthy does not have a retirement date!

For athletes, their life centers around their training during the two or three decades they are competing. When you want to be healthy, its the other way around, exercise needs to fit into your life.

We can watch the Olympics with a great appreciation for all the hard work and dedication each athlete put in so we could be entertained by their amazing skills and enthralled by the level of competition.

But as you watch, know that is not exercising for health. To be healthy you only need to invest less than three hours a week, do the right balance of exercise for strength stamina and mobility, so your body can do a wide range of activities with more ease and less strain. Exercising for health means you become your own best coach by cheering yourself on each day.

Enjoy watching athletes go for the gold, and enjoy knowing you don’t have to work that hard to enjoy your golden years with lots of pep in your step from being a lifelong exerciser for health.

Keep Moving, Be Well


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by | July 27, 2021 · 9:00 pm

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