Boiling frog syndrome

Fitness | By Mark Saunders

17 June 2013 37 replies

When people get older, their level of physical activity and exercise decreases dramatically. An impressive longitudinal study proved that people exercise 55% less comparing the same group on the age of 13 to the age of 27. So inactivity becomes a bigger risk to health when people get older. How come? 

The phenomenon of 'progressively less exercise' can be explained by the so-called boiling frog syndrome. It is a somewhat lurid experiment, but when you place a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will do everything it can to escape. The same behaviour occurs among humans with pain. When somebody has a toothache they will do everything they can to stop the pain. But if you put a frog in a pot with cold water, and then slowly turn up the temperature, then it will let itself be boiled to death without showing any struggle. The analogy with mankind is easily made. A person who is increasingly less active will not notice the health disadvantages until a later stage in life, so very gradually until it is too late. Many harmful effects to health are unfortunately difficult or impossible to reverse.

The good thing though is that most people now know the importance of exercise and even have the intention to do something about it. This is illustrated by how people in the fitness industry often hear the same thing at (birthday) parties. When it becomes clear that you work in the fitness industry, many people will spontaneously confess that they actually would like to get more exercise. The problem is that these are usually just merely good intentions.

It is very doubtful if health information and education can stimulate people to think ahead and actually take action. Health clubs also place an emphasis on the importance of exercise. Equally it seems that people are sensitive to it. Many begin with one fitness activity or another, but unfortunately countless members quit after a couple of months. An estimated 40% of all fitness members throw the towel into the ring within 12 months and end their membership.

An important question is: what are the contributing factors to retention? How does exercise for the sake of health come about and which factors play a role in member retention? Or do we end up like the frogs?



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