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Why nagging can be good for your health
18 April 2012
British Psychological Society (BPS)
Over-30s can benefit from being nagged, nudged and cajoled by family and friends into being more active, according to new sport psychology research being presented today (18th April 2012).
Speaking at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society in London, Dr Richard Keegan from the University of Lincoln, will outline findings of the first study to comprehensively address the range of social influences affecting levels of physical activity among people aged between 30 and 60. This includes the influence of husbands and wives, friends, family, health professionals, the media and local government.
In a series of interviews with adults from across the UK, participants who were the least active reported that they needed, and even appreciated, regular reminders and pestering by spouses and children.
One participant summarised: "We might be sat comfortable, reading or something, and my wife might say 'Let's go and do something'. And when I'm at the cross-roads, 50:50, I need that". Another commented: "My daughter is just full of beans, she's always like 'Come on Dad let's do this' - and then I need to sit down! She tells me to chase her and she actively gets me involved!".
The media and GPs appear to play a similar role, providing 'alarm bells' to shock those who were unfit or inactive about the potential consequences of a sedentary lifestyle, while also serving an important function in offering information and instruction on what to do next. One of the most important considerations for these groups was to provide consistent and reliable information, otherwise people could 'switch off'.
Rather than focusing on fixed factors that have traditionally been used to predict health, such as ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, and education levels - which are difficult to change after 30 year of age, the study instead examined the modifiable social influences on motivation towards physical activity.
This included giving information and impetus (scaring and/or nagging); supporting progress/achievement; emotional and moral support (even just a few words of encouragement); logistical support (such as looking after the children for an hour); and making activity itself a social endeavour (such as going with friends, making friends and joining clubs).
Dr Keegan, from the School of Sport, Coaching and Exercise Science at the University of Lincoln, said: "The aim of this study was to help people examine their lifestyle as a whole and establish what the key factors are in influencing their activity levels.
"The most common barriers to active lifestyles were work, long commutes and provision of facilities. However, it became clear that if you know who to ask, it is also possible for your social network to help you be more active, for example, by going for a run with colleagues straight after work.
"The good news is that the study suggests once you are active and healthy, you no longer need nagging. Most importantly, however, the suggestion that 'nagging is good' should only be applied to getting healthy and active!"