tough health decisions

The Self-Reinforcing Effects of Bad Health

tough health decisions
What causes people to make bad health decisions?
What causes someone to engage or not engage in particular behaviors is a complicated issue. We have complex psychologies, and our environments and biologies interact in delicate ways to create choice environments which are subtle, yet powerful.

Bad Health Rolls Downhill

Often imperceptibly, these lifestyle patterns become self re-inforcing. We tunnel our vision towards what’s immediately visible, and habits of thought paper over alternatives that only reappear when we haphazardly stumble into unplanned outcomes.
Unhealthy people would presumably have the strongest incentives to exercise. After all, they have the most to gain from just a little bit of activity. But most research on the unhealthy shows one of the biggest impediments to taking on fitness is their own bad health. And an insufficient community to keep the habits intact.

Reasons People Don’t Exercise

For example, a new paper studied 2,000 German adults and found these were the biggest reasons for not exercising:
  • Bad health: 57%
  • No friends to exercise with: 43%
  • Lack of interest: 36%
  • No available opportunities to play sports: 18%
  • Lack of transportation: 15%
Perhaps these results call for a new metaphor for getting in shape. The popular comparison is to envision oneself climbing a mountain and overcoming hurdles to reach our end goal. But if the biggest impediments to good behavior are our starting point and social environment, maybe it’s best to envision oneself planting a garden, one that with enough attention and nurturing over time, can eventually blossom into a self-reinforcing choice environment that makes the best behavior the most rewarding.

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