Fear of death is greatest motivator to exercise
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Fear of death is greatest motivator to exercise

fitness apps that emphasise death in their marketing messaging are more effective at motivating people to exercise
The finding comes from a study that looked at the effectiveness of five types of messaging, including social stigma, obesity and cost
Apps which highlighted the dangers of inactivity to health had the 'best response'
The study was conducted at the University of Waterloo in Canada
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Fitness apps that emphasise death-related messaging are more effective in getting people physically active.

The finding comes from a study that looked at five types of messaging used to get people to work out at home.

Participants were asked to indicate how persuasive the five types of messages were in terms of motivating them to work out, to uncover their effectiveness, connection with social-cognitive beliefs such as self-regulation (goal setting), self-efficacy and outcome expectation, and also seeing what role gender played.

Apps which highlighted the dangers of inactivity to health – including early death – were much more effective when compared to those that focused on social stigma, obesity, or financial cost.

Previous studies on the effectiveness of messaging that aims to change human behaviour, especially on smoking cessation and risky sexual behaviour, have found the opposite – that messages related to mortality could actually be a barrier to acknowledging health risks.

The study, authored by Kiemute Oyibo from the School of Public Health Sciences at University of Waterloo, Canada – found this to be different for fitness.

“I didn't expect only illness- and death-related messages to be so significant and motivational,” Oyibo said.

“Not only were illness- and death-related messages motivational, they also had a significant relationship with self-regulatory belief and outcome expectation, and there was no significant difference between the sexes."

Oyibo said he had expected obesity-related messages – such as “one in four Canadians has clinical obesity” – to be motivational and have a significant relationship with self-regulatory belief, given that obesity is associated with being one of the leading causes of global mortality, but people were not able to make this conceptual leap.

“This study is important because it helps us – especially designers of health apps – understand the types of messages that individuals, regardless of gender, are likely to be motivated by in persuasive health communication and that are likely to influence individuals’ social-cognitive beliefs about exercise,” Oyibo said.

Oyibo said future studies should consider other demographic characteristics besides gender, such as age, culture, race and education, to uncover the role they play in persuasive health communication.

The study, called The relationship between perceived health message motivation and social cognitive beliefs in persuasive health communication was published in the journal MDPI. To read the study in full, click here for the HCM link.

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Fitness apps that emphasise death-related messaging are more effective in getting people physically active.
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