Rebranding Exercise: Enhancing Daily Quality
of Life a better message than appealing to
Newswise, September 28, 2011 — A new
University of Michigan study finds that
the most convincing exercise message
emphasizes immediate benefits that
enhance daily quality of life.
Health care, business and public health have
presumed that promoting health and longevity
benefits from exercise will motivate people
to exercise. The new findings, however,
indicate that these individuals exercised
less than those who aimed to enhance the
quality of their daily lives.
"The study showed that what an individual
espouses as important does not necessarily
translate into behavior," said Michelle
Segar, research investigator for the U-M
Institute for Research on Women and Gender.
"While people say they value health and
healthy aging, those distant benefits don't
make exercise compelling enough to fit into
their busy lives."
These findings challenge the current
convention of promoting exercise for better
health, longevity, or as medicine.
"Promoting exercise for health is logical,
but people's daily decisions are more often
connected to emotion than logic," Segar
said. "A more effective 'hook' is to rebrand
exercise to emphasize the immediate benefits
that enrich daily living, such as stress
reduction and increased vitality."
Individuals may also appreciate the
subsequent benefits that make exercise more
personally meaningful, such as being a
patient parent, enjoying life, being
creative and having focus at work, she says.
"By shifting our model from medicine to
marketing, we can improve how we 'sell'
exercise to the public by using principles
like branding," Segar said.
For example, messages about immediate
rewards from exercise that make life more
enjoyable, such as "move more, get energy,"
may better motivate busy individuals than
promotions focused on achieving distant and
abstract benefits, such as "move more, get
Segar studied responses from 226 women
between the ages of 40 to 60 who worked full
time. They completed three surveys during a
one-year period. Respondents were asked
about their exercise goals and
participation, how much they valued their
goals, body mass index (BMI) and social
support. This study supports other research
showing that the reasons why individuals
initiate exercise influence their motivation
and behavioral sustainability.
Segar recommends four steps to rebrand
exercise and to improve engagement and
--Assess the specific exercise benefits your
organization has been promoting.
--Evaluate the effectiveness of these
motives to engage and motivate ongoing
--Ask your target population what values and
experiences they most care about achieving
in their daily life that exercise benefits
would impact, such as reduced stress and
--Develop new messaging that addresses these
valued end points.
Caroline Richardson, an associate professor
of family medicine at U-M and research
scientist at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare
System, and Jacquelynne Eccles, a professor
of psychology and education, co-authored the
The findings appear in the latest issue of
The International Journal of Behavioral
Nutrition and Physical Activity.
Disclosure: Segar has a consulting and
training company and coaches women in how to
sustain self-care behaviors and physically
Funding: National Institutes of Health
grant, an American Fellowship from the
American Association of University Women
Educational Foundation, a grant from the
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan
Foundation, and the University of Michigan
COPE Fund that supports publishing in open