Guest columnist Barry Bouthilette: Create your own ad campaign

  • In this Tuesday, March 17, 2020 photo, dance instructor Lola Jaramillo records a Zumba and exercise lesson in Washington, that will be uploaded in the social media accounts of Vida Senior Center, a nonprofit that serves Washington’s older Hispanic community. AP

Published: 7/21/2021 5:33:14 PM

The benefits of being physically active are well documented.

The evidence is pretty clear that physical activity improves brain health and our mood, helps manage weight, reduces disease, strengthens our immune system and much more.

OK, so how do we convert what we know and believe into action?

For the fortunate among us (mostly those who are hyperactive), moving a lot comes naturally, as if something in their genetic makeup causes them to fidget continually.

Most people, though, are not so lucky. Being physically active does not come easy and, in fact, may require deliberate effort just to get out of our chair or off the couch.

We are that body which all too often remains at rest until acted upon by an external object (Newton’s first law of motion).

If one of your goals, like most Americans, is to be more physically active, you may have to employ some new strategies if you want to succeed.

One way to do this is to borrow a page from the playbook of an industry which knows how to influence human behavior. That would be the advertising industry.

Just as there is plenty of science which goes into getting consumers to choose one brand over another, there is also a healthy dose of art involved in the process. It’s what makes commercials so entertaining. They can be very creative. And so can we.

What may be worth considering is your very own “ad campaign” designed to help you be more physically active every day.

The possibilities are endless, and the best ones are those you create on your own because you know yourself and your environment best.

Here are a few examples of what you could do:

■Take a “commercial” break at regular intervals. Many apps and devices can be programmed to remind you to get up and move frequently throughout the day.

■Sticky notes. It is remarkable how many of my clients, many of them busy professionals in this digital age, still find paper and marker to be effective means for communicating, in this case, to themselves. They’ve learned that strategically placed messages can help them focus on their important goals. Think of all the places in your living and working spaces where you can create a mini-billboard to remind you to get up and move.

■Put simple exercise props in places where you can’t miss seeing them. Some people put hand weights next to their work desk, or resistance bands on the doorknob, or a yoga mat in the middle of the floor, or workout clothes in rooms they frequent, like the kitchen (you know, that place we often go for snacks.)

■Make it emotional. Advertisers know that buying can be less a rational decision than one meant to create a certain feeling (freedom, safety, attractiveness, etc.). Think of images you can display in your environment which will inspire you to follow through on promises you’ve made to be more active this year.

How creative can you be in designing your own personal ad campaign?

The object here is to design your surroundings so that they are supporting your best intentions. Bottom line: visual cues get our attention and can be effective at causing us to change our behaviors, so that they are more aligned with our highest values.

If any of these ideas make sense to you, I encourage you to give them a try, starting now. Remember the advice of the folks at Nike who came up with one of the most successful advertising campaigns of all time: Just Do It!

Barry Bouthilette is a nationally certified health and wellness coach who helps people eat smartly, maintain a healthy weight, stay physically active, reduce risk for chronic disease, sleep well, manage stress, improve relationships and much more.


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