Fitness Resolutions: Aim High or Low?


It’s the time of year when many people take advantage of an opportunity to make resolutions and set goals for themselves. Each year some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions are related to fitness, and the best ones are goals with measurable outcomes. In this sense, the recent “visual lecture” by Dr. Mike Evans (Facebook and Twitter) about what to do to improve your health debuted with perfect timing.

“23 and ½ Hours” has a simple purpose: answering the question, “What is the single best thing we can do for our health?” If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch the video here:

Although Evans employs some suspense-building tactics before revealing the straightforward answer, many viewers won’t be surprised that the key to a healthier life is exercise. The whiteboard-sketch presentation style and quick facts are great for keeping YouTubers’ attention, and before ever uttering the word “exercise,” Evans details an impressive array of benefits of this “intervention.” (These include reducing problems from knee arthritis, progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s, diabetes, anxiety and depression, and fatigue as well as improving quality of life.)

The value in the video is the simplification of preventative health principles, and its suggestion of a manageable goal. The “challenge” posed to viewers at the end is, “Can you limit your sitting and sleeping to just 23 and ½ hours a day?” When he puts it that way, we’re meant to recognize how manageable regular physical activity is, and how many opportunities a single day affords us to exercise. Walking, the type of exercise specified in the video, is also the easiest daily activity to build upon without making major lifestyle changes.

But, catchy facts and charming illustrations aside, has Dr. Evans given us anything that we didn’t already have? A few days after the video hit 500,000 views, he said in an interview for Canadian public radio, “Stories trump data, and we tell a story here.” But is an engaging format enough to motivate action?

In the same interview, Evans acknowledges that his video is not meant to be a magical solution to the problem of low fitness levels – “you will need other things going on to make a sustained health behavior change,” he says. He is content with the reasonable expectation of increased awareness or a potential “o.1 percent” of viewers engaging in regular physical activity after seeing the video, but does this mean that we set the bar too low? Should our fitness goals really be framed in terms of the 23 and ½ hours we have to be less active each day?

If you’re here, you probably already have some interest in a healthy, active life. Do you think that fitness goals should be more ambitious? Or is the best we can hope for to encourage people to commit to the bare minimum? (Since, after all, the “rate of return seems to decline after 20 or 30 minutes [of walking/exercise] a day.”)

Use the comments section below to share your thoughts – is the video a good starting place for people who currently aren’t as active as they should be? How much value might it hold for people who already exercise regularly? What are some fitness goals you have?

Post Written By: Rebecca Dobrzynski