The American public has an undeniable weight problem. We work long hours in sedentary settings and our diets are usually not great. Americans who are able to maintain a reasonable level of fitness have to work towards it outside of their schedules. Few of us find healthy dietary choices and exercise enjoyable, and I think that it’s because we view diet and exercise as a chore. This study in Marketing Letters found that participants enjoyed physical activity more and consumed less unhealthy food after if they were assigned to an activity that framed exercise as fun.
Patients who participate in weight-loss studies drop out at a lower rate if they seek treatment for health, have higher levels of physical activity, and live closer to the clinic. I think that we can take the marketing concept of framing, combine it with these clinical phenomena, and make exercise more accessible to the average patient. Patients should attempt to develop an exercise plan that they can stick to. Patients should be motivated to exercise, find it easy to perform, and find it easy to complete.
Mall walking deserves the ridicule that it receives, at least at first glance. Here are three reasons that mall walkers might recognize some of the criteria listed above and how we can learn from mall walking to help others:
- Mall walkers are motivated to exercise. Patients in weight-loss studies drop out at a lower rate if they seek treatment for health and not appearance. The elderly retain their desired quality of life for longer if they stay active. It is easy for the elderly to find motivation but might not be for young patients. Patients need to see how their decisions impact their health and how their health might impact their overall well-being later on.
- Mall walking is easy to perform. Malls are free to access, open to everyone, and all over the place. We all have expensive, barely-used, exercise equipment hidden somewhere. Encourage patients to find activities that are easy to begin.
- Most importantly, mall walking is easy to complete. If you have ever spoken to a mall walker, you will realize that mall walking is not about walking around a mall. Mall walking is a social activity. All of my grandparents have mall walked extensively, but they have never told me about their actual walk, only about the friends they have made. Patients need to find a physical activity that they enjoy. You can complete just about anything if you are having fun doing it.