Introduction

Our health is influenced by our behaviors, genetic makeup, the environment of our society and the clinical care we receive. We do not have control over the genetic makeup but we can control our behavior. We can make decisions not to drink alcohol, to eat healthy foods and to exercise regularly. Exercise can assist in preventing and solving many health problems.

Scully et al (1998) says that exercise can be used as a tool to help cope with mental illness (Stress, depression and anxiety). The authors assert that physical exercise can enable one to cope better with stress. Depression can be reduced by four weeks of exercise even though the greatest effects of anti- depression occur after 17 weeks of exercise. The authors reviewed over 30 published articles and concluded that there is a relationship between anxiety reduction and exercise. McDowell (2009) outlines the benefits of exercise as increasing Basal metabolic rate, improving your mood and weight management. The author says that increasing the muscle activity through exercise increases the body’s basal metabolic rate. He also asserts that regular exercise makes one to be more happy and relaxed during his daily activities. Costarelli & Khanam (2008), in their study “Attitudes towards health and exercise of overweight women” studied the attitudes of Bangladeshi women living in UK towards health and exercise.

The study showed that most of the women were either obese or overweight. This was because due to their conservative culture most of these women did not exercise. The women were of Muslim origin and their culture prevented them from joining men in physical exercise programs. The study recommended culturally appropriate exercise programs and multilingual trainers as an intervention to solve this problem. Stouffer (2000) recommended promotion of appropriate exercise as a way of reducing heart disease prevalence in the society. Exercise has also been recommended to cancer patients to improve their health. From the above discussion it can be seen that if appropriate physical exercise is implemented in the society so many diseases will be prevented. However, most people have often neglected this issue. This paper seeks to show who are at risk of health problems due to lack of exercise and best techniques for facilitating behavior change.

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Who are at Risk?

All the people are at risk of health problems due to lack of exercise. The Task Force on Community Preventive Services (2002) showed that 75 percent of U.S adults are not physically active to the recommended health levels. The adults did not take at least 30 minutes moderate intensity physical activity on most days. Among this percentage, 29 percent did not engage in any physical activity. Among the youths only 27 percent reported engaging in recommended levels of physical exercise.
The reasons as to why most people do not engage in physical activity include culture, work and study pressures.

Due to the desire of economic empowerment most citizens are so absorbed in work that no or little time is left for leisure. You will find somebody multi tasking in order to get more money. There are also courses that are so involving that leave the learner with no time for physical exercise. This may be because the student would like to complete the course within a short span of time or is taking a part time course. The culture may also prohibit one from engaging in physical exercise. The Muslim culture may discourage women from freely associating with men in exercise. These women may not engage in exercises that involve both genders. Despite these impediments, it is important that appropriate techniques be employed in order to encourage exercise in our communities. The next section looks at the appropriate interventions that can be used to encourage behavior change in the society.

Techniques for Facilitating Exercise in the Society

There are three main categories of interventions that can lead to increase in physical exercise in the society. The first category is the informational intervention and it involves community wide campaigns and point of decision prompts. The second category is behavioral and social intervention and this involves individual health behavior, school based physical education and community social support. The last category is environmental and policy intervention and this involves enhanced access.

Informational Approaches

This involves making information about the importance of exercise available to the people so that they can start exercising and maintain that behavior. The informational intervention use educational approach to provide both general and specific information. This information may give the specific benefits of physical activity; it may also give information on how heart disease risk can be reduced through exercise. The information is intended to provide information about importance of exercise, make the society aware of physical exercise opportunities, explain techniques of overcoming barriers to physical exercise, and increase physical exercise among community members. The approaches that will be discussed in this case are community wide campaigns and point of decision prompts.

Point-of-Decision Prompts

This involves putting signs on elevators and escalators to encourage people to use the stairs. The signs send a message to people to use stairs for their own health benefit or weight loss. Kahn et al (2002) says that the signs remind the people who are determined to exercise of an opportunity available and also provides the information of health benefit associated with taking stairs.
The signs should not only encourage people to use stairs but also give the health benefits of using the stairs. This will appeal to many people to use the stairs for physical exercise. This approach can also facilitate unplanned engagement into exercise. For example one may not have time to engage in exercise but by avoiding using escalators and elevators, he or she can involve himself in physical exercise.

Community Wide Campaigns

This involves using mechanisms such as movie theaters, radio, television, trailers, and newspapers as tool of informing the community of the benefits of physical exercise. Several strategies may be employed to necessitate community wide campaigns. These include physical exercise counseling, education at schools and at work places, community health fairs, and organizing community events such as walking trails. As the members of the community read, hear, see or are involved in physical exercise they get used to it and this can result in behavior change.

Behavioral and Social Approaches

Behavioral and social techniques are designed to enhance physical exercise by teaching skills in behavior management and creating an environment conducive for people who want to start exercising or those who want to maintain physical activity. These techniques involve changing school, family, and work environments. Skills are geared towards recognizing opportunities for physical exercise, means to take care of risk situations, ways to sustain good behaviors and ways of preventing going back to old undesired habits. The behavioral and social approach that will be discussed here are: individual health behavior techniques, school based physical education and community social support.
This technique is intended to increase the time that students spend on physical exercise. The increase can be achieved by creating new physical education classes, increasing the time for existing physical education classes and putting in more vigorous physical exercise during a physical education session such as replacing soft ball with soccer. These measures will facilitate learners to engage more in physical exercise and enjoy the health benefits associated with it.

Community Social Support

This techniques focus on transforming physical exercise behavior by creating, strengthening, and sustaining social networks that encourage physical exercise. This behavior change can be achieved by friends encouraging each other to exercise, making agreements to achieve a certain level of exercise, and forming walking groups that create friendship and encourage physical exercise (Kahn et al, 2002).

Individual Health Behavior

In this technique, individuals are taught how to plan and implement for physical exercise in their day to day routines. It also teaches individuals on how to utilize unplanned opportunities. The approach involves setting physical activity goals and individuals monitoring their own progress, creating social support for the desired behavior patterns, positive behavior encouragement by individuals rewarding themselves or talking positively about themselves, ensuring that the new behavior is sustained, and prevention from going back to the old behaviors. These interventions assist people to involve themselves in physical activities, monitor their own progress, maintain the behavior, and avoid relapse.

Environmental and Policy Approach

Environmental and policy techniques are geared towards aiding people to get used to healthier behaviors such as physical exercise, through facilitation of healthy organizational and physical environments. This technique involves change in public policy, development of physical exercise supportive environments and enhancing community action.
The approaches in this technique do not target individuals but they target entire populations by aiming at transformation of organizational and physical structures. Example of such an approach is providing physical activity facilities within the reach of the community members. The technique that will be discussed in this case is enhanced access to places of physical activity.

Enhanced Access

In this approach opportunities for physical exercise services are enhanced in the society. Access to these services can be enhanced by: building the physical activity facilities and reduction of barriers to access to these facilities. By building new facilities more people will have access to physical exercise services. The fees can also be reduced so that most people can access the facilities. The operating hours can also be changed so that even those who go to work can access the services. The facilities can also be built at worksites so that those working at that particular place can use the facility during their own free time. This kind of enhanced accessibility can increase the level of physical activity in the society.
This interventions are not only limited to access to physical exercise facilities but also involves counseling, health workshops and forums, training on the equipment, health and fitness programs and health education and techniques seminars. These techniques are mostly employed in urban and transportation infrastructure, in our schools and in work places.

Conclusion

Exercise is greatly tied to health; it can be used to prevent some diseases such as heart diseases and mental illness. However, this phenomenon has been greatly assumed by many people in the society. This is caused by study and work pressures and culture. The society is more economically inclined; we better get an extra dollar and die of cardiovascular attack than exercise, lose an extra dollar and stay healthy. This notion needs to be discouraged in our society because lack of exercise can lead one to fail to cope up with stress and depression. This reduces the productivity of an individual both at work and at school. It is important for appropriate measures to be put in place to encourage behavior change in our society. Such measures should target individuals and the community as a whole. Efforts should be made to make physical exercises as flexible as possible. Taking the facilities to people’s work places is one such measure. In conclusion, I can say that exercise is very important for healthy living and no matter how tight your schedule is, you can slot in about 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical exercise.

Reference List

Costarelli, V. & Khanam, S. (2008). Attitudes towards health and exercise of overweight women. The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, 128, (1), 26-30.
Kahn, E. B et al. (2002). The effectiveness of interventions to increase physical activity: A systematic review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 22, (4S), 73-107.
McDowell, P. (2009). The Importance of Exercise. Retrieved from http://healthylifejournal.org/healthy-living/the-importance-of-exercise/.
Scully, D., et al. (1998). Physical exercise and psychological well-being: A critical review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 32, (2), 111-20.
Stouffer, K. (2000). Exercise Adherence in Employee Exercise Programs: Implementation of a Health Education Intervention. New York: UMI Microform

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