This article from the BBC last week touched on some of the reasons why children aren’t reaching the activity levels that they need, as well as the outcomes. The benefits to activity are many, and this article focuses primarily on physical health. However, the psychological and social benefits are, in my view, the most important outcomes of physical activity.
In terms of the barriers to being active, what this article misses is that a significant reason that sport and physical activity is not practised to the levels required, is that it is not a common part of people’s identity. You can see sporty kids a mile away. Spend even a small amount of time chatting with children and young people and you’ll quickly see what they consider to be important to them, i.e. the components of their identity.
When you identify with something; a sport, a hobby, a group, etc, then you stop ‘trying’ to do that thing and your natural motivation drives the behaviour. This is one of the most effective behaviour change techniques we use at BeeZee Bodies. We actually listen to people and help them express their existing passions and desires in a healthy way. Then, we make sure we help ‘iron out’ the barriers and build in cues and other elements that are likely to nudge people towards the behaviour, without even trying. This provides sustainability without the constant need for conscious willpower. This is how you truly support sustainable behaviour change through identity.
We want people to say ‘I am a …’ and then insert their identity; e.g. surfer, yoga buff, footballer, walker, climber etc., you get the picture! Make physical activity a part of your identity, build a system around you to support it and you can stop trying to be active, and just be active!