University of British Columbia Okanagan – Bachelor of Human Kinetics – 2019
Many people wait until they are already affected by a disease to start treating it, but a much more effective approach would be to change one’s lifestyle to avoid disease and disability altogether. Preventative healthcare is a very important part of the health care system that is too often overlooked. Generally, people are too focused on finding a certain medication or surgery to solve their health problems when the simple answer is right in front of them. Lifestyle! All they need to do is focus on improving their diet, maintaining physical activity levels, and avoiding or restricting harmful substances such as alcohol and tobacco. It sounds simple, but these changes don’t happen overnight. This solution takes time, effort, and dedication to continually make healthy choices and work toward a better lifestyle. This is why many people wait until they already have these diseases before making a change in their lives. As physiotherapist, my job would be to provide people with the support and guidance to make these changes and live the healthiest life they can. Whether it’s type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, or even anxiety, depression, and psychological well being, exercise has been proven over and over again to have positive impact on improving health.
Step one on the road to preventative healthcare: changing one’s mindset. As a 3rd year student working toward my Bachelor or Human Kinetics Degree, I’ve learned a lot about how effective a healthy lifestyle can be and my goal as physiotherapist would be to help other people adopt this mindset as well. I know that when starting out on a new exercise routine or change in diet, it can be hard to see the end results when changes happen so slowly at first and as a result we see people quit over and over again. At this point in the intervention, it’s important to make it fun and engaging so people want to come back and keep working hard. Whether it’s a group exercise class or a one on one physio session, my goal is to give my clients a reason to feel motivated even if they don’t see results immediately. At an early stage, exercise psychology plays a major role in changing the way people think about exercise and movement. The psychological benefits of exercise are often forgotten, although studies have shown that increased exercise is correlated with higher levels of self-efficacy and perceived competence, increased achievement, motivation, and intention to exercise, and decreased depression (Biddle, 2011). This means that once the initial barrier of mindset and motivation is broken, people will be more inclined to participate in exercise as they experience the benefits they didn’t realize before.
Step two: maintaining motivation. Motivation can be defined as the direction and intensity of one’s efforts (Sage, 1977). Once I’ve worked with a client to change their mindset, it’s time to figure out what motivates them and guide them toward whatever that may be. For some people, it could be a competitive sport and for others, it could be the mental calmness they feel after finishing a yoga class. Whatever type of movement leaves them wanting more is where I’ll lead them. A person’s motives are critical in influencing exercise participation and injury rehabilitation (Weinberg & Gould, 2015). With the goal to get people involved in preventative lifestyle changes, it’s important to find strategies that continue to motivate and excite people throughout their life. This way, the change becomes permanent instead of a short-lived exercise program or crash diet. One simple, effective way to find lasting motivation is to help people find a community that they can feel they belong in. This could be a running group, yoga class, or just a group of friends that have the same healthy living goals.
Step three: making effective goals for the future. At this point in the intervention, it’s important to make goals to solidify the change in lifestyle. We all know from new years resolutions that it’s easy to set goals, but hard to stick to them. This is why it’s important to learn how to set effective goals. Studies have consistently shown that effective goal setting has a powerful effect on behaviour (Wilson & Brookfield, 2009). One study showed that goals improve performance and shape behaviour in four main ways; directing attention to important elements of lifestyle, mobilizing efforts, prolonging persistence, and fostering the development of new learning strategies (Locke & Latham, 2002). Effective goals need to be specific, as well as moderately difficult but realistic. By helping people set specific goal for both short-term and long-term achievements I can help them improve their ability to commit to goals and be motivated to achieve them. As a result, they will have the ability to work towards the healthy lifestyle they desire and continue to improve throughout their life.
In summary, exercise and lifestyle change can be a very effective strategy in preventative healthcare. As a physiotherapist I can contribute to the growing field of preventative healthcare by providing exercise interventions to people in order to create lasting healthy lifestyles. By changing people’s mindset from focusing on medication to focusing on being active and taking care of their body, I can help to decrease the amount of people experiencing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and many others. By helping people find what motivates them and helping them set effective goals, I can increase the amount of people who understand the positive effects that exercise can have and help them strive toward living a life free of disease and disability.
Biddle, S. (2011) Overview of exercise psychology. In T. Morris & P. Terry (Eds.), The new sport and exercise psychology companion (pp. 443-460). Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.
Sage, G. (1977). Introduction to motor behaviour: A neuropsychological approach (2nd ed.) Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Wilson, K., & Brookfield, D. (2009). Effect of goal setting on motivation and adherence in a six-week exercise program. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 6, 89-100.