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What motivates people to participate?

Bob Gurney – PhD, C. Mgr.

What motivates people to participate in exercise/physical activity and what are the barriers to participation in exercise/physical activity?

What motivates people to participate in exercise/physical activity and what are the barriers to participation in exercise/physical activity? The current literature appears to be extensive in addressing these questions however, previous research in this area lacked an understanding of motivation in the context of exercise behavior (McEwen, 1993; Haq and Griffin, 1996). Plonczynski (2000) reviewed 22 studies (mid to late 1990s) that measured motivation for exercise engagement. The studies were evaluated through criteria of types of instruments, reliability and validity. Plonczynski (2000) concluded that the studies reviewed were lacking in research design, administration and interpretation, and recommends a need to improve the theoretical applications of studies for both prediction and explanation of physical activity behaviors.

In a study of motivators and barriers to exercise and participation in sport, in metropolitan Madrid Spain, Rodriguez-Romo, Boned-Pascual, and Garrido-Munoz (2009) found that the most frequently cited motivators were fun, stay in shape and health, while barriers cited were demands of work and family, and lack of time. Motivators and barriers to participation in physical activity (Bragg, Tucker, Kaye and Desmond, 2009) were investigated through focus group sessions of participants in two groups (Group 1 = mean age of 14; Group 2 = mean age of 34). The motivators and barriers of this study were identified by focus group participants as: social influence (motivators); time and priorities (barriers); physical environment (both motivators and barriers); fun and enjoyment (motivators); inherently physical activities (motivators); weight concerns (motivators); fatigue (barriers), physical discomfort and current fitness level (barriers); and immediate positive feelings (motivators).

Adults between 74 and 85 years of age reported that motivators and barriers to participating in exercise/physical activity were associated with internal factors, such as pain and depression (Cohen-Mansfield, Marx and Guralnik, 2003). A more recent study (Buman, Yasova and Giacobbi, 2010) of older aged participants, indicate reporting of unpleasant experiences, weight gain, and fear of injury as barriers to participating in physical activity. In this same study, motivators to participate in physical activity were linked to positive experiences in life activities from a young age. A more current study of exercise motivation and relationships with exercise frequency, intensity and duration (Duncan, Hall, Wilson and Jenny, 2010) of approximately 1100 students (mean age = 24) found that there was a positive relationship between the construction of values and goals with exercise behaviors of frequency, intensity and duration. These researchers concluded that practitioners need to develop exercise programs to facilitate the exercise motives identities of participants to support their exercise engagements.

To help us understand motivators and barriers to physical activity, we request your participation in completing our survey questionnaire (should take less than 10 minutes) 

Click here for survey. >>


– Buman, M. P., Yasova, L. D., and Giacobbie, P. R. (2010) Descriptive and narrative reports of barriers and motivators to physical activity in sedentary older adults. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. 11 (3) 223 – 230.

– Cohen-Mansfield, J., Marx, M. S., and Guralnik, J. M. (2003). Motivators and barriers to exercise in an older community-dwelling population. Journal of Aging & Physical Activity. 11 (2) 242 -253.

– Duncan, L. R., Hall, C. R., Wilson, P. M. and Jenny, O. (2010) Exercise motivation: a cross-sectional analysis examining it relationships with frequency, intensity, and duration of exercise. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 7, 7-15.

– Gabriel, R-R; Boned-Pascual, C., and Garrido-Muñoz, M. (2009) Reasons for and barriers to exercising and sports participation in Madrid. (English).Pan American Journal of Public Health. 26 (3) 244 – 254.

– Haq, M. B. and Griffin, M. (1996) Health motivation: key to health promoting behavior? The Nurse Practitioner. 21, 155-156.

Author: Bob Gurney


Minding Your Body

Most athletes over train. Ask athletes how they feel and the response is usually, I’m tired, beat up, this or that hurts, or when will the race be over? These are signs that they are tapping too far into their bodies’ natural ability to tolerate exercise. In other words, their minds are ahead of their bodies.

In general athletes are too goal oriented and need to embrace the process more. If you continue to train exactly as you are now in the absence of any goal, then you are truly a process-oriented athlete and probably giving yourself the right dosage of exercise your body requires every day. If not, you’re probably in an overreaching state of disharmony that can’t be sustained and by definition is overtraining. You’re pushing, and that’s not healthy in the long run.

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Exercise and Mental Health

Robert (Bob) Gurney, PhD

Mental health issues in Canada have recently generated a great amount of interest from researchers, medical professions and the media. I have taken a different approach for the readers of the50zone/health, in terms of moving from an article presentation to identifying accredited resources that address mental health and exercise.

First, the URL below is a video of a by: Roger Walsh, M.D., Ph.D. DHL.- Is a graduate from Australia’s Queensland University with degrees in psychology, physiology, neuroscience, and medicine, and then came to the United States as a Fulbright Scholar.  He is now at the University of California at Irvine where he is professor of psychiatry, philosophy, and anthropology, as well as a professor in the religious studies program. His research has included work in the nature of psychological health and wellbeing. The video presentation – Exercise Benefits Body, Brain, and Mind. Exercise Can Prevent and Heal Disorders Such as Anxiety, Depression & Age-Related Memory Loss – Part 2 of 10 part series on Lifestyle and Mental Health.

Two more videos of interest, provide discussions on exercise and mental health, as follows:

The Exercise and Sports Sciences Australia (ESSA) have recently released a position paper on mental health and exercise: Exercise and Mental Health: An Exercise and Sports Science Australia Commissioned Review

In conclusion, we would very much enjoy hearing from you, the readers, as a means to stimulate discussions on this topic.

Effortless Endurance

Aerobic training done properly should feel effortless, if it doesn’t, then you’re pushing too hard. It doesn’t matter how fast you can climb a hill on the bike, or pound out intervals on the track, endurance all comes down to what average pace you can sustain over a long time period.

That said, many endurance athletes continue to undermine their health by exercising too intensively the majority of the time, producing excessive stress that suppresses the immune system and leads to over-use injuries. What’s the point of being fit if you are actually damaging your health in the process? It’s better to stay focused on the key to success in endurance sports and that’s aerobic development.

That’s why my endurance training approach is somewhat unique: stay focused on your aerobic development, train effortlessly, and let your speed develop naturally. When you train this way, not only do you maximize your endurance performance, but you also increase your health and decrease your injuries.

The following chart illustrates how much the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems contribute to performance at maximal intensity over a given time:

Time (min)              % Anaerobic           % Aerobic

1                                  70                                30

2                                  50                                50

4                                  35                                65

10                                15                                85

30                                5                                  95

60                                2                                  98

>120                           <1                                >99

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Key Uses for Heart Rate Monitors

heartrateI can bet that your HR monitor has ended up at the bottom of your gym bag, forgotten and lonely. Why is this? Simply because after the novelty wears off, the value of using this important tool is lost to most people because they don’t understand the positive impact that following heart rate can have. Training properly with a monitor can save you from injury, increase your performance, and give you more training pleasure if you know some of this tool’s basics. Here’s the Coles Notes version of how to use this device in an effective and meaningful way and rescue it from the cob webs growing at the bottom of your gym bag.

For endurance athletes, there are two key uses for a HR monitor. The first and most important use is to ensure that you don’t train too fast on your easy and on your long days. These training days are designed to stimulate your aerobic fat-burning metabolism and increase your body’s capacity for endurance. If you exceed your aerobic threshold, even if it’s only for a minute or two up a hill, you will destroy the effect of this workout, switch into sugar burning, and your body won’t be able to switch back for up to 10-12 hours! This is the most common mistake of endurance athletes, and it impacts your training in a negative way by compromising your recovery and limiting the development of your aerobic fat-burning system.

To train properly in the aerobic fat-burning zone you need to be below 180 minus your age and able to comfortably breathe through your nose. If your heart rate is low and your respiration is completely relaxed, then you can bet you’re using fat to fuel your activity. The minute you pick up the pace or charge up a hill, you switch over to burning more sugar, tap into your anaerobic system, and virtually shut down your fat-burning mechanism. This compromises your training effect. Without a monitor, you’re guaranteed that you’ll walk over this line without even knowing it – almost every athlete I’ve worked with does.

Commonly, endurance athletes do their long training sessions in groups, and groups are notorious for pushing the pace, even if you have seeded yourself properly. Most members in a group train too hard because they’re motivated to keep up. Even when you think you’re okay because you’re talking and feeling fine, you’re probably training too hard. And hooking up with a group based on pace is not always ideal because on any given day their pace may not match what your body is telling you is aerobic on that day. You need to follow the inner cues of heart rate and nasal breathing if you are to stay aerobic and develop your fat-burning machine properly.

I remember one athlete I was working with who wanted to run with a local group for his long runs. He put himself in what he felt was the right pace group. After wearing his monitor on these group runs, we quickly saw that he was at his aerobic training level for the first 20-30 minutes, but then he would drift up to well over 20 beats above his proper training level. He felt okay, a bit tired and sore, but he could keep up. He was, however, inadvertently training too hard and compromising his aerobic fitness development. In addition, he was also compromising his recovery and this left him in a fatigued state for a few days.

I suggested that he build his base of long runs on his own for a time, while staying in his aerobic range and skip these group runs. After six months he rejoined the same group of 10-minute milers. This time however, he was able to start the run 10 beats lower than before, and he never exceeded his aerobic heart rate threshold the entire time. He would tell me that he came back fresh and capable of repeating the same long run that day. He was finally ready to be with the group and able to keep the run entirely aerobic. I left him with the guidance that he could move up in groups provided he could maintain his aerobic heart rate, if not, stick with the group he was with. He lowered his PB in his next marathon by over 40 minutes!

The second important use for a monitor is to properly target your race pace in training. If you wear your monitor in races and simply observe the findings, after awhile you will discover the average heart rates that you race various distances at. Using this information you can then properly target the exact intensity for your interval training. What’s even more beneficial is you can run this kind of workout anywhere because you don’t need to go with pace or find a track, all you need is your heart monitor to help you to pace yourself on these workouts.

For example, I’ve worked with one marathoner who has progressively lowered his personal best in four successive marathons simply by using his monitor to pace his interval workouts. Here’s how we did it. In each successive marathon, his average HR has been coming down. This is a good indicator that he is getting fitter aerobically, especially when his pace and subsequent finish time in each marathon has also been getting better. His aerobic training heart rate max is 135, and he completes all his long, easy runs below this heart rate.

His HR averages for the four marathons have been 158, 157, 155, 153. His times have been 4:00, 3:45, 3:38, 3:34. I have set his interval training heart rate at the 5 beat range below each of these values each time we have done interval training. For example after the first race run at a 158 average, I set his interval training heart rate at 153-158 and had him run 8-12 km repeats in this range. After that marathon, I lowered the training heart rate 1 beat to 152-157 and had him do 12-15 repeats. For the third race, I lowered his training rate to 150-155 and increased the repeats again to 15-20. And now, after the fourth race, we’re doing the same – adding a few more repeats at a slightly lower HR.

In this way, he is able to extend the time frame his body is capable of holding his exact race pace. This is the specific training stimulus that his body needs in order to successively lower his race pace is each successive event. By training over this specific heart rate, we actually stimulate the wrong training response. By training too easy below this heart rate, we would miss the mark, slow him down, and add what runners call more “junk miles” to his program. So on his speed day each week, we need to be very specific with his training. The only way we can do this is by using actual race heart rates and designing the program from that data. This, I have found to be the most accurate way to train marathoners.

The overall training formula then, to properly train for endurance is to train in your aerobic training range as dictated by 180 minus your age, breathe through your nose, and build up your mileage here first. Once your mileage base has been developed in whatever sport you’re training for, then add one day a week of faster training, targeted at your race heart rate and based on your previous race. If you don’t have a race heart rate to base it on then simply build your base, race, and establish one. You can’t get any more accurate than having heart rates from a race. One of my Ironman athletes averaged 132 in the Penticton Ironman last year and our goal for this year is to increase his average by 5 beats, now that’s being specific in training!

So there you have it, two simple but effective ways to use your monitor. The first allows you to target your fat-burning aerobic metabolism, and the second allows you to target your race objectives. I hope that takes the guesswork out of using your monitor and inspires you enough to dust the cobwebs off that lonely technological device.

Grant Molyneux, MKin, BPEH, CEP, AFLCA

Principles of Training

Robert (Bob) Gurney, PhD

Are you searching for training programs for a specific sport or for good practices of staying fit? If you search on the internet you will be overwhelmed at the amount of information and plans developed by people that claim to be experts (but are not) and those that are accredited experts with recognized certifications to support their expertise. So let’s keep it simple and start with the foundations of training principles and then let us know if we can help you apply them to sport or fitness specifics. The principles of training in this article include: specificity, overload, overtraining and the taper.

Specificity refers to the training be devised to ‘train’ those muscles and systems of the body that require the demands of the sport or activity you wish to engage in. In other words, all the movements and system needs of the sport need to be trained for optimal performance.

Overload is the principle that addresses the need to train above stimulus threshold (a stimulus or activity strong enough to elicit a response of ‘tough to do’ but no pain). This will facilitate the development of chronic training adaptations. The nature of the overload principle follows the ‘FITT’ formula: Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type. Frequency refers to training 3 to 5 times per week; Intensity refers to monitoring your heart or pulse rate (see training heart rates guides or use the following formula: 220 – age = estimated max Heart Rate. Starting a training program for the first time should elicit a Heart Rate of 60% to 70% of estimated max Heart Rate …. Slowly progress over time to working in the 75% to 85% zone; if you are swimming use 205 – age = estimated max heart rate … this adjustment is linked to the buoyancy factor of the water). Time or duration refers to specific activities (for example aerobic training sessions should be at least 30 to 60 minutes of continuous work in your training heart rate zone), Type is the mode or type of activity (walking, running, cycling, swimming, weight lifting, etc … what do you like to do?)

Overtraining is associated with overload in terms of – you don’t want to overstress yourself, meaning doing too much training above your limitations and without sufficient rest intervals. In other words, overtraining is noticed when the training causes excess overload and the body is unable to adapt, which tends to result in decreased physical activity performance.

Taper refers to a period of reduced training weeks before a competition. You will need to experiment with this one as it varies among individuals. If you are a swimmer, a cyclist or a runner, the taper does not decrease your conditioning … it has been proven to increase muscle power, psychological state and performance.

For more specific applications of training principles to various body systems (Cardio-respiratory, muscle strength, muscle endurance, flexibility, power …) contact us with your specific questions of interest.

Note: it is strongly recommended that you consult with your family Physician and discuss your training plans, before commencing your training plan.

Author: Bob Gurney


You can connect with me on Linkedin – Robert (Bob) Gurney

The Next Chapter

2013A new year and a clean slate, what do you want to create?

It is that time of year again when we start making many kinds of resolutions such as eating healthier, exercising more, spending more time outdoors and to be more social. Resolutions can be helpful but also leave you disappointed and feeling bad about yourself. We often make demands on ourselves to do things that are not a realistic. In the end, instead of bringing more balance to our lives and feeling good about ourselves, we feel guilty, like failures and end up in a worse position than when we started. It is important to be supportive of yourself rather than judgmental and critical.

I encourage my patients to make intentions rather than resolutions. Intentions have a more creative power and leaves room for growth and change. Intentions are powerful and create a path for us to follow. Of course we need to make steps towards those intentions but we do not need to make restrictions on HOW it will happen. If you want to become more fit, find avenues that you are interested in and if it is something you aren’t familiar with you can find ways to learn. This is much more attainable for long term success rather than making a resolution that you will go to the gym 4 times a week.

Take the time to create a quiet space and reflect on what it is you want to create and to experience for you and your family during 2013. If you intend to eat healthier, perhaps put an intention out to learn how to cook and eat foods that are more nutritious. This gives more space for growth rather than making a resolution of things you will NOT eat. Write these intentions down and review them at the beginning of each month. This will help to keep your thoughts on track and can keep you moving in the direction you want. At the end of the year, you can review your intentions and will be surprised how many have manifested. It is often surprising and can give motivation and encouragement of how you want to enter another year. May 2013 bring much health, happiness, love and success!

Dr. Brandy James


Endocrine Changes and Aging

Endocrine Changes and Aging – Part II; Bob Gurney, PhD

To follow-up on the article last month, select endocrine changes in the aging process will be provided in this brief. If you were waiting to read any significant research connecting hormone changes linked to aging and exercise, then you will be disappointed. In healthy adults, hormone changes are a fact of life and any notion that exercise can significantly change the release of hormones and endocrine related actions tends to be limited in conclusive evidence. The following table illustrates a summary of the literature addressing select hormone changes in older adults.

Hormone                        Changes with Aging  Potential Clinical Signs                    Comments

Luteinizing Hormone (LH); Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) Decreasing levels of testosterone – after age 30
  • Pain in bones
  • Muscular weakness
  • Increase in body fat (especially abdominal area)
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Decrease in sexual activity
  • Impaired potency
  • Men’s testosterone levels fall gradually and over a long period of time.
  • Not all men are affected by a drop in testosterone levels.
  • Changes in testosterone levels resulting from regular physical activity in older adults are not conclusive.
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) TSH increase arises from age-related alteration in the TSH set point or reduced TSH bioactivity rather than a lack of understanding thyroid disease. Symptoms of aging can easily be confused with hypothyroidism, and in the past decreased thyroid function was believed to be one of the primary factors of the aging process. The literature is non-conclusive to changes in TSH during light to moderate physical activity. However, the evidence appears to be strong in terms of increased TSH blood levels with heavy exercise. The increases in TSH levels were not linked to clinical signs of hyperthyroidism.
Growth hormone (GH) Secretion of GH tends to decrease in older adults.
  • Lack of energy or fatigue
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain (body fat)


The actions of GH in response to exercise have been linked to the fitness level of individuals. The literature suggests that GH activity is lesser in trained versus untrained individuals in similar intensities of exercise. These differences are not clearly understood, yet the conclusions point to suggesting that regular physical activity affects the control processes of GH.


Endocrine changes in the functions of glands such as the pituitary, pancreas, adrenal and thyroid have been linked to type 2 – diabetes, as a result of impaired glucose tolerance. Diseases of this kind have been associated with elderly and tend to be related to factors of poor diet, inadequate physical activity and increases in body fat – especially in the organ areas of the abdomen.

Author: Bob Gurney


You can connect with me on Linkedin – Robert (Bob) Gurney

Jeans … a Fashion Staple

Jeans … a Fashion Staple

by James Kelly

They’re back ... ripped jeans, that is. Is this part of the circle of life? The grunge days of the 90’s have come back to haunt us.

This summer season ripped jeans are back with a vengeance and it looks like every manufacturer is pulling out all the stops to find new ways to tear them up. Front, back, sides, no surface is sacred.

The 90’s ripped jean had its way. More of a lightly damaged look like maybe you fell down and scuffed a hole in the knee or the pocket. Today’s rip is no holes barred. Some of you would wonder how they stay on they look so fragile.

So what should you expect to pay for a less than full pair of jeans? Well you can rip it up at Old Navy for very little. $25 can get you a nice pair of stonewashed completely ripped up jeans. You can expect these to make it through the summer and that’s about it.

Calvin Klein’s start at $80 and go up. Fashionable for sure, and a pair of jeans that will last a long time.

Did you know that Gucci has jeans that sell for over $3,000? No kidding. You wouldn’t want to rip those up would you?

No matter what your budget, a pair of ripped jeans can make any outfit look cool. They’re a great change from those skinny legged Levis you got at Mark’s Work Warehouse.

Bottom line, no matter what your age, ripped is in. Over 50? You might want to go with a little less rip and more of the scuff. Either way, don’t let a little thing like looking cool stop you from getting a new pair of jeans.

James Kelly

The Sock

The Sock

by James Kelly

Ahhh, the sock. It’s the last thing you think of unless you live in a place where the floor is constantly cold.

So, you’re buying a suit and the sales guy up-sells you the shirt and the beautiful matching tie. I’m not sure when ties went from being an accessory for a couple of bucks to something that requires refinancing your home to get, but that’s a story for another day.

In the process did he mention socks? Not likely. Why? Because socks are one of those things you can still get for a couple of bucks and they add nothing to your salesman’s bottom line.

If you think socks don’t play a part in your fashion statement, let me ask you this. How many times have you noticed that David Letterman was wearing white socks with his talk show ensemble? How many times have you noticed that the geek in front of you at Starbucks has a pair of thermal work socks on with his shorts and sandals? How many times have you noticed men wearing knee socks with dress shoes and shorts?! See what I mean, people notice these things.

Now some people will wear two different colour socks and tell you that that’s how they roll, but take it from me, that’s not how they roll, that’s how they roll out of bed!

The earliest known cloth sock dates from 300-500AD. They had split toes, designed to be worn with sandals, unlike your wooly workies that you think look so good. Every culture in the world has at some time invented some kind of sock and they have been created from every type of material. Anything from cotton, wool, nylon, acrylic, polyester, polypropylene, and spandex with silk, to cashmere and mohair, used to bring a little softness to the project.

It’s no wonder the sales guy didn’t offer you a pair of socks. He probably didn’t want to spend another half a day trying to figure out which ones would work for you.

I remember the Bermuda knee highs from the sixties, but especially remember the multi-coloured toes socks of the seventies. Not since then has there really been a sock statement, and though they go unnoticed for the most part, they stick out like a sore toe when added to a wardrobe improperly.

Here’s a tip: if you get yourself all dressed up for a night out and when you take that last glance in the mirror you wonder, do these socks look stupid? Then they probably do! So don’t ignore your instincts (or your mirror). Take them off and get some that don’t look like you just came from a “Flash Dance” rehearsal.

If you think that no one will notice that you have plaid socks on with your pin-striped suit, guess again. People notice. Take the time to get some good quality socks. Ones with some taste that match your wardrobe. Unless you are wearing an ascot, ’cause then they’ll just be laughing and pointing at that!!



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