20 Aug 2018 | Digital editions, magazines, websites, e-zines, handbooks and contract publishing for the leisure industry

Leisure Opportunities issue 742, 2018 is now out!

Blogs:

Read blogs by writer:

Liz Terry
CEO,
Leisure Media

Kate Cracknell
editor-at-large,
Health Club Management

Tom Walker
Journalist,
Leisure Media

Our guest writers:

Aleatha Ezra
Director of park member development,
World Waterpark Association

Jennifer Fields
Communications Coordinator,
Association of Zoos and Aquariums

Brad Irwin
Partnerships development manager,
Natural History Museum

Michel Buchel
President of Ecsite and CEO of NEMO, Amsetrdan,
NEMO

Julie Becker
Communications and Events Manager,
Ecsite

Eva McDiarmid
Chief Executive,
ASVA

Kurt Janson
Policy Director,
Tourism Alliance

Peter Ducker
Chief executive,
Institute of Hospitality

Maria Zolotonosa
Project Manager,
Ecsite

Ian Taylor
CEO,
SkillsActive

Ufi Ibrahim
Chief Executive,
British Hospitality Association

John Goodbody
Sports Journalist

Sam Coulstock
Customer Relationship Director,
Springboard

Lucy Schweingruber
Fundraising and Events Manager,
Ecsite

View all guest writers

Making activity normal

03 Mar 2015
by Kate Cracknell, editor-at-large, Health Club Management
Trying to get individuals to stop smoking or eat healthily overlooks the fact that these are fundamentally social practices

We want to get the nation fit and active, and to achieve this we must understand the environmental and social factors that reinforce certain behaviours at a subconscious level. We can’t simply give people information and expect them to change their behaviour.

This is the topline finding of a paper published in November by Dr Stanley Blue of Manchester University. Blue explains: “Smoking, exercise and eating are fundamentally social practices. Trying to get individuals to stop smoking or to eat healthily overlooks this fact.

“Public health policy will have to find the courage to break away from its traditional mould if it’s to stand a chance of confronting lifestyle disease. Current policy is dominated by the presumption that individuals are capable of making ‘better’ choices for themselves on the basis of information given to them by government or other agencies. This doesn’t account for the fact that practices like smoking and eating have histories of their own.

“We need to re-shape what is deemed socially acceptable and normal in order to change these practices.”

Research carried out by Ipsos MORI last year came to a similar conclusion. In the study, three-quarters of respondents underestimated the percentage of people in England who were meeting physical activity guidelines – and many saw this as an excuse to follow suit. “Our understanding of the social norm has a huge effect on how we act: if we think everyone else is doing it, we’re more likely to do it ourselves,” explains Bobby Duffy, MD of Ipsos MORI’s Social Research Institute. “People think the norm in society is inactivity.” (see Health Club Management 2015 issue 3 p54)

So what can we do about this? Blue believes social practice should be placed at the heart of public health policy, with junk food, excessive consumption of alcohol and physical inactivity made socially unacceptable in much the same way as smoking has been. He also believes making the ‘right’ decision – going to the gym or eating five portions of fruit and veg a day, for example – shouldn’t be a matter of personal choice.

But that’s a tough call to make, as it implies a legislative approach – similar to the smoking ban – that forbids people from doing anything unhealthy. Quite aside from the authoritarian overtones that jar with the fabric of our society, we also need to be practical about this: how can we possibly legislate against people sitting down?

We need to turn this argument on its head. Making inactivity less socially acceptable would be no bad thing, but as behaviour change expert Dr Paul Chadwick says on Health Club Management 2015 issue 3 p38, instilling a sense of shame can be counterproductive. If we’re going to legislate, let it be for activity rather than against inactivity: making leisure statutory, making active design a compulsory part of urban planning, and creating a national exercise incentive scheme. And at a club level, let’s learn from the likes of US yoga operation Brewasanas (see Health Club Management 2015 issue 3 p60), which accepts that people enjoy a drink. We need to follow its example and bring that together with exercise into one social experience; if we make it either/or, the pub will win.



Tags: Health Club Management  health & fitness 

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