The Redesigning Wellness Podcast

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028: Why We Should Stop Promoting Health with Dr. Michelle Segar

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Dr. Michelle Segar is a motivational scientist who has been studying what motivates people to choose and maintain healthy behaviors, particularly around exercise. She believes

Motivation isn’t the cause. It’s actually the result.

We start with Michelle explaining what she does as a motivational scientist. There’s no one single solution for everyone because we’re all different and like different things. Research suggests we tend to make daily health decisions based on emotions and in the moment instead of according to logic. We’ll make the choice based on how we feel.

Wellness has come out of a medical model that’s logical and makes sense but long term benefits of exercise don’t influence people. The “feel good” benefits of exercise do drive long term exercise.

We need to look to marketers as we are trying to change health behaviors. Michelle compares this to Apple and how they guide us to feel in the moment.  We can help people see that if they move for 10 minutes they do have more energy. We also need to decrease the standards we give to people using a Kindergarten mindset. Let’s shrink the goals we’re asking people to achieve (at least at the beginning).

How can we move exercise from a chore to a gift? When you frame exercise as fun instead of physical activity, we get them to see it differently. Hook people to re-frame exercise by the quicker benefits like feeling happy, better sleep, stronger sex drive, connecting with your love ones, etc.

We need to shift people’s perception that healthy behaviors from logic health reasons but instead as a vehicle to feel better immediately. Encourage people to notice how they feel differently when they make healthy choices. Ultimately, increase their self-awareness. The most challenging aspect is sustaining the health change because of the ongoing self management around the behavior.

Michelle gives her thoughts on external motivators like gift cards and financial incentives. She leaves us with a tangible tip to assess the reasons we give employees to participate….are they based on logic?

Links mentioned:

Brian Wansink study about exercise fun vs walk.

White paper health promoters stop promoting – can request via this webpage


Michelle’s bio:

Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH, motivation scientist and author of critically acclaimed “No Sweat! How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness”(AMACOM 2015), is Director of the Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center (SHARP) at the University of Michigan, and Chair of the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan’s Communications Committee.  No Sweat was chosen as the #1 book in Diet/Exercise in 2015 by the USA Best Book Awards, and when released, it achieved the #1 selling Exercise & Fitness book on Amazon.  Michelle’s 360-degree perspective is informed by more than two decades of award-winning research, individual fitness and self-care coaching, and consulting, uniquely positioning her to help organizations understand and leverage the emotional drivers and internal rewards of consumers’ decisions that lead to well-being and health.

Pioneering new approaches to sustainable behavior change in the fitness, health care, and wellness arenas, Segar’s  evidence-based ideas about what motivates people to choose and maintain healthy behaviors is changing the conversation across fields. She consults with global organizations on these issues and delivers keynotes and sustainable behavior change trainings.

Wellness Professionals

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