Who doesn’t want to be fit? At this age, almost – if not everyone – wants to be healthy. It was now the trend of our age – to be addicted to exercise, to be healthy and fit. And it is a good thing. As the old saying goes, health is wealth.
Also, it was almost effortless to get fit nowadays because of technology. There are many apps that collect your information – your food intake, your weight, your height, how many times your exercise a day, etc. and they just do the math for you. But have you ever wondered about the psychology behind fitness and exercise, and if your private data are safe with the apps that you use?
Fitness Psychology is a trend or approach in psychology that focuses on the relationship of sport science, fitness, medicine, and of course, psychology. On the other hand, Exercise Psychology is a new field of study in psychology that focuses on the psychological factors that affect or influence exercise behavior.
Some of these psychological factors are self-esteem, depression, body image, anxiety, motivation, social support, and perceived control.
Interest in the field of exercise psychology has exploded in the late 90s, as research has shown that regular physical activity positively affects a broad range of physiological and psychological conditions. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans are not active enough to ensure positive health and fitness benefits. In addition, according to a study by Dishman in 1982, 50% of individuals who do actually start an organized exercise program are likely to drop-out within the first six months of initiating the program. These statistics cultivated the importance of exercise psychology, specifically, to gain an understanding of why people are either inactive or active.
Nowadays, there are many types of research that exist to describe who is likely to be physically active, and the many challenges most people face as they attempt to engage in a physically active lifestyle. Most of all, a lot of individuals, including government agencies, community groups, and corporations are now interested in promoting health and physical activity and are consulting exercise psychology professionals to help design and implement programs that initiate and sustain positive health behaviors.
Techniques of Exercise Technology
Fitness psychologists educate clients, especially athletes about effective methods to sharpen focus, increase motivation, and improve performance. However, it should be noted that the strategies often used to help clients are applicable to other disciplines such as medicine, politics, business, the arts, and the military. Common techniques taught in fitness psychology sessions include:
- Goal setting. It is establishing specific short and long-term goals that are measurable, challenging, and reachable.
- Regulating arousal. It is the increasing or decreasing of an individual’s physical and cognitive activities until they are at a level that maximizes performance. Arousal may be increased by engaging in positive self-talk, relaxing, such as listening to inspiring music, and/or visualizing triumphant events. While arousal may be decreased by meditation, performing breathing exercises, or muscle relaxation techniques.
- Self-talk. These are positive words and ideas that the client repeats in an attempt to increase arousal and focus attention on a particular objective.
- Motor imagery. A vivid mental rehearsal or simulation, which involves multiple senses and allows the person to feel what the actual event will be like.
- Pre-performance routines. It is the physical and mental actions the person goes through before a performance. This technique may help the individual have a sense of predictability, relaxation, consistency, and control.
Technology and Exercise
Improvements in technology have brought lesser physical work and exercise required as part of daily life. Technological advancements in the Digital Age (Generation Z and Millenial) have almost eliminated most previously needed physical activities. This caused an increase in prevalent chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
Research has also shown that pedometers, video games (such as Wii Fit), and mobile phone applications can each be used to increase energy expenditure. However, most apps need you to enter private data to fully help you achieve your goal. The good thing is there is an act called, HIPAA, that aims to protect private and personal data in the healthcare system.
Some advancements in technology that help people to increase daily physical exercise are:
Active Video Games. Active video games make it possible for players to exercise in a fun way by physically interacting with one or multiple body parts such as arm, or leg, and by whole-body movements in a variety of sports and games, including dancing, boxing, tennis, soccer, skiing, and walking. Popular active video games include Just Dance, Wii Fit, Xerbike, and Sony Eye Toy. There is also research that has focused on how these kinds of active video games can be used to improve body fitness and increase energy expenditure.
Activity Trackers and Pedometers. An activity tracker is an instrument that is worn either in the limbs or trunk that measures frequency, duration, and intensity of physical activity. The measurement is obtained by collecting and quantifying the acceleration and deceleration of the body.
While Pedometers sense vertical accelerations of the body— in simple words, it records the number of steps a person takes.
Although there is less scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of activity trackers and pedometers, there was a surge in popularity in these instruments for motivating and monitoring physical activity in the past decade.
Smart Phones. Smartphones are the most growing type of phones nowadays and almost every person uses smartphones because of the convenience that they give not only through communication but also in work, school, and even fitness.
One study in 2012 found that existing members of a website-delivered activity program (10,000 Steps, Australia) who installed the application on their smartphone and used it for three months completed more than 10,000 daily steps than those people who did not install the smartphone application. Researchers concluded that having the smartphone application increased not only the quality but also the duration of engagement due to the increased convenience of the smartphone application.