What makes people start living more healthily? Understanding motivations is crucial to designing policies to encourage people to adopt healthy behaviours. Simply telling them of the health benefits may not be effective. In our survey, we found that improved health is a clear motivator for better eating, but people are more likely to start exercise to improve their looks (cited by 47 per cent) and for weight loss (49 per cent) than for reducing the risk of illnesses (42 per cent). So tapping into people’s vanity is more likely to motivate them to keep going than lecturing them about the health benefits.
If there was any doubt, the survey also shows that motivation is sorely needed: only 26 per cent of people say they exercise because they enjoy it, while by far the most common reason for stopping regular exercise – picked by 42 per cent, compared to 22 per cent for the next most common reason, lack of space at home – is that it requires a lot of effort.
Of course, cost is often a barrier to healthy activity, and one that is often (unsurprisingly) higher in less wealthy economies. Across the region just 11 per cent of people cite expense as a reason for stopping regular exercise, but this rises to more than two in five people (41 per cent) of people in Cambodia and one in four (25 per cent) in India.
Interestingly when it comes to eating more healthily, this relationship breaks down: it’s more expensive to find fresh fruits and vegetables in a range of wealthy and less wealthy markets across the Asia-Pacific region. The cost of eating healthy food is the most cited factor for stopping in Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.