Contributor: Rich Butler, MS, USPTA
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Coaches use the phrase, “There is no ‘I’ in team.” Long-time UNC basketball coach Dean Smith applied the ‘Point to the Passer’ rule, which meant that whichever player scored they would point out the teammate that made the pass to them. Ask yourself, when was the last time you made an assist? Or worse, did you buy the jumbo popcorn at the movies with your friend who is trying to change their diet? To whom do you point in your life who assists you? An assist regarding lifestyle changes needs to be far more persistent to be effective. It can’t be a one-time thing. There are no buzzer beaters with healthy habits.
Consider children. There are tens of thousands of obese children who are not equipped with the knowledge or opportunity to make appropriate decisions regarding food. They are at the mercy of the decision-making of those around them. These children require an informed adult who understands the long-term consequences of consuming processed foods with low fiber levels that are sweetened and fattened. In the past 15 years, British Chef Jamie Oliver led campaigns in both the UK and the U.S. to improve the food that children were served in schools. Even going so far as to get his efforts broadcast on primetime television. That is an assist!
Consider what it takes to be a good dog owner. In our neighborhood, a woman who has rescued three different dogs over the years walks them at least twice a day. Assist! In contrast, another neighbor opens the back door, the dogs do their business, and then they come back in. No walk, no activity, very little outdoor time for the dog. No assist.
If being regularly active is like scoring a basket, then to whom do I point? Who gets the assist in helping me with my activity? John calls Saturday to see if I am playing basketball in the morning. Kate wants to go hit tennis balls. Marie wants to hit the gym and get an off-season workout in. Steph invites me on her favorite hike. Jack stops by the office to see if I can play some pickleball. Mario sends an email to try for tennis at noon. And when everything lines up right, a hike or ski up into the mountains with my friend from Vermont. Without this network, I suspect my activity level would be far lower than it is now.
In 1995 Dr. Janet Wallace at Indiana University found married pairs who participated together in an exercise program had far greater attendance and lower drop-out rates than those who came alone, even if they were married. Later Osuka et. al. also concluded that older couples were more likely to practice the walking they were assigned than non-couple participants. The premise is the social support offered by a friend, a spouse, or even a four-legged companion provides the impetus to take us into that metabolic gear that aids us in so many ways.
My recommendation is that if you are having trouble getting your steps in, raising your heart rate, or pumping the iron, make a call or send a message to someone and try to build your team. We cancel trainers, and have unused exercise equipment, gym memberships that go for naught. There is something to sharing the ball, so to speak, and getting more people involved. From kids cooking in the kitchen to taking a family member out on a walk, everyone can participate. Time to suit up for the game. Shoot, score, assist!
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Wallace JP, et.al. “Twelve month adherence of adults who joined a fitness program with a spouse vs. without a spouse.” Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. Vol 35 (3) pp 206-13, September 1995.
Pettee KK, et. al. “Influence of marital status on physical activity levels among older adults.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Vol 38 (3) pp 541-6, March 2006.
Osuka Y, et. al. “Does attending an exercise class with a spouse improve long-term exercise adherence among people aged 65 years and older: 6 month prospective follow-up study.” BMC Geriatrics. Vol.17 (170), July 2017.