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  • The Intimidation Factor. Part 4

    Posted on October 16th, 2012 Patricia No comments

    People who have not worked out for a while have a poor assessment of their physical capabilities and their present physical state. In other words, long-term-inactive consumers appear to relate not working out with deterioration in their physical capabilities and present physical state. They believe that this, in turn, will cause them considerable unease if they work out in the typical exercise facility. Those with a shorter period of inactivity were less intimidated. Eventually, inactive consumers believe they are incapable of more than the most basic types of exercise. This explains why walking in private and using a stairclimber or stationary bicycle are popular choices with most long-term inactive people who begin exercising again. More complex and physically demanding sports such as tennis, skiing or windsurfing, or even exercising in public, are not comfortable options.

    Personal assessments of whether individuals can handle the type of exercise offered depends to some extent on their degree of being overweight. Overweight people are likely to feel less sure about the type of exercise they can handle. Simply being overweight, however, is not the main problem. It depends on the degree of discomfort people feel about the present state of their physique. The more uncomfortable they feel, the more likely they are to believe they are in poor cardiovascular condition. Being shy about displaying their bodies in a public situation like an exercise facility, adds to feelings of intimidation. Overall, the general athletic self-image of people who feel uncomfortable about their physique appears quite low.

    In the case of health clubs (but not worksite-based facilities), people assess the typical member, compare this with their present physical capabilities and physical state, and determine if they will fit in. However, this is not a significant factor for worksite-based facilities where consumers will assess how they will fit in based on their level of comfort with the exercises offered.

    How people assess their physical condition is an important factor to feelings of intimidation. Consumers assess their physical condition from their body shape — specifically their perceived degree of being overweight. The degree of being overweight and the perception of physical capabilities go hand-in-hand, since this appears to provide people with clues as to what type of activity they are capable of doing. Health clubs are giving these consumer markets the notion that the type of activity offered is geared toward people who are young and in shape. Worksite facilities do not appear to have this problem since it is not the participants but the perceived type of activity offered and their ability to do it that is the intimidating factor.

    These findings offer a possible psychological explanation for the intimidation that comes from beliefs that being out of shape means having less physical capabilities. Psychologically, everyone has an inherent drive to maintain a positive view of themselves. Thus, every effort will be made for self-enhancement and promotion, and situations that could potentially threaten a positive self-view will be avoided. The perception of lacking the necessary physical capabilities, which will be obvious to observers, provides a motivation to avoid that situation. If people perceive they are in poor physical condition, and have a low opinion of their athletic ability, they will look for the type of activity they think they can physically do without embarrassing themselves. A perceived environment of young, in-shape individuals will be intimidating. When people are also shy about displaying their bodies, this adds to their apprehension about the exercise environment. It also compounds the marketing problem that must be addressed.

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