Research Snapshot Part 1: Common Traits in People Who Maintain an Active Lifestyle

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Recently I put a call out for volunteers to take part in research which aimed to explore if there were common traits or behaviours among people who have been physically active on a consistent, regular basis for a period longer than twelve months.

The reason I did this research is because of a belief that there is such a focus on weight loss and diet when it comes to discussing long term health behaviours, with very little being said for the benefits of simply an ‘active’ lifestyle. Of course you can understand why there is little research about anything that doesn’t include weight loss or diet intertwined – there is not only big money in the diet industry, but there is also big money in obesity and weight-related health research. But I will save all of the statistics and numbers for the full research report.

The concept of ‘health’ is changing. We are starting to awaken to the idea that weight does not define a person’s health: that our health as an individual is shaped by indicators such as nutrition, activity, stress levels, and mental and emotional wellbeing. We are shifting from simply defining ourselves from Body Mass Index (BMI) alone, and society in general is starting to catch up. Some obesity researchers are also daring to go against the grain and are redefining what they believe the new picture of ‘health’ to be. Dr. Arya Sharma, Chair in Obesity Research and Management at the University of Alberta recently acknowledged the power of healthy behaviours as opposed to numbers on the scale:

“What will determine your health ultimately is going to be your fitness level, the amount of sleep you get, how your feel about yourself, the quality of your diet.”

When I read this piece and this quote, I had one of those ‘yes’ moments – what Dr. Sharma had defined were aspects that many of the respondents to this current indicated as the key benefits of their regular physical activity. It signified the shift that I predicted to occur when an individual focuses on simply being active with no other ‘strings’ attached.

Before I delve in I would like to thank all of you who volunteer and take part in my research. By aiding me in this research you are helping me pave the way in a new area of research. To give statistical credit to issues surrounding body positivity, fitness, and athleticism helps Body Positive Advocates immensely when it comes to working for changes, particularly in areas of public health policy and government. By helping me in this research, you are actively being a part of the change we want to see.

Current Research: Are there common traits or behaviours in people who have been consistently active for longer than twelve months?

Research Predictions: I undertook this research because I suspected that there would be similarities in people who had been consistently active for a significant period of time. I chose a period of twelve months because most long term weight loss studies worked with people who had maintained weight loss for a period of twelve months or more.

It was important in this instance to state predictions I had when entering this research. My predictions were based on both my own experiences as someone who set an initial goal of being active daily, and the changes I see in people who, long term, lead an active lifestyle with no focus on weight loss or diet. I knew that in both my case and that of others, I had observed an appreciation for the ‘bigger picture’ benefits of this lifestyle, such as increased fitness, a positive relationship with their body, and better mental and emotional health – aspects that are quickly becoming the new key indicators of what ‘health’ is.

My predictions were as follows:

  1. There would be a shift in focus from the original motivation to start training: for example an initial motivation to undertake training for weight loss will have shifted due to a re-focus to on overall physical and mental wellbeing and enjoyment of activity.
  2. An altered relationship with their body: respondents will report an improved/more positive relationship with their body as a result of this sustained athletic lifestyle.
  3. Respondents will report a relationship with food that is not diet focused but more performance focused and one which demonstrates an understanding of what suits their body.
  4. A decrease in reliance on ‘feeling motivated’ to train/be active.
  5. An appreciation of the mental health aspects of regular activity and an overall ‘bigger picture’ of wellness.
  6. Respondents will more likely use a functional language when discussing their bodies.
  7. An understanding of the importance of rest and recovery, indicating that they train more from a position of nurturing their bodies.
  8. Respondents will have a close relationship (‘be in tune with’) their bodies.

Stay tuned for Part 2. A full research report will be posted on the ‘pages’ section in due time.

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