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  • Writer's pictureDr Susan Baxter

Fit for Good!

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

All across the New Zealand, charity fitness has become a movement in its own right. Getting fit for the benefit of a charity and in addition to the regular ‘stay in shape’ rational has allowed the profile of charities to be lifted, and not to mention awareness for their cause.

Many might remember as children a NZ heart foundation competition called ‘Jump rope for heart’ that encouraged skipping in children to increase awareness of obesity related heart disease. It encouraged engagement from the local communities for wellbeing, increased awareness for the disease and sent a public health message to look after the health of the heart through exercise.

What do you do to ‘give something back’? Forget big buffet charity events or cupcake sales, why not dig a little deeper and combine your drive to contribute with your drive to get fit: why not get fit for good!

The jury’s back and you are already convinced of the benefits of regular exercise for you: better health, self-esteem, enhanced posture and self-image, and reduced stress.

It all seems so simple, and we have set the goals that will make us determined and motivated: to fit into our sexy jeans from a few years ago, or to run that marathon next year. Yet, there still seems to be something stopping us: why isn’t it working as we planned?

Not all goals are created equal. Most people know that to have any chance of success, our goals need to be S.M.A.R.T (specific, measured, achievable, realistic, and timely), but sometimes even this isn’t enough, and our sheer will power can’t carry us through. Why not try a different approach? Make your goal more appealing, worthwhile and rewarding. Factor in some personal accountability and make your goals an urgent priority, not just timely and convenient. Add some emotional motivation to rev up your performance to make your goal more achievable, and you’ll have a sure fire recipe for success!

Researchers from the USA say this concept works on your motivation in two powerful ways. It reduces your likelihood to quit, and increases your time spent achieving the goal. This is all possible by adding a charitable cause to your journey. Here’s how it works: ordinarily you have a whole lifetime to commit to ridding yourself of the 5kgs you want to lose – the accountability lies with you. A series of studies by researchers in Montreal discovered that redefining accountability (with the good cause) and quantifying the output for charity work increases performance, and lowers your chance of dropping out. By spending more time working towards your goal you will reap the benefits of better fitness results, with reduced risk of quitting. Therefore the case for this new reason to get fit: charity fitness – is overwhelming, as it combines emotional drive and passion, and along the way can create adventure experiences and memories as you reach new heights of fitness. In essence, it’s magic motivation for movement. The added bonus for you is provided by empathy for the cause pushing you to pull the covers back and pound the pavement.

As an example, take the case of Duncan Rae from Dunedin, who managed to improve his fitness and performance from just under an hour for 1km rowing to less than 40 minutes. To pledge his support for ‘Jess’s journey’ (his niece diagnosed with Leukemia), he vowed to row a million metres over the space of 100 days. He gave himself no rest days (as Jess did not get any days off having Leukemia); therefore every day he would row 1000 meters on the rowing machine. He even gained the support of many people around the country along the way including an Olympic Rower (Fiona Bourke). The amount raised currently stands at over $8000.

Research shows that it is much easier to struggle and push yourself out of your usual comfort zone for an external motivator, which is probably why you will find people running the length of the country and running the equivalent of a marathon every day in order to pledge their support. For Duncan, Jess’s struggle was the catalyst and the inspiration that he needed to push him through his fitness struggle.

It has also been shown that volunteering to help a charity can increase your lifespan, and by doing this as part of your fitness goal it allows you to put your own health and fitness first.

What else is in it for you? Well besides helping a worthy cause, meeting a lot of new friends, there is a lot of moral support that comes with your goals being linked to the funding raising for a charity. Essentially your friends become your cheer team to assist you in reaching you goal, giving people a chance to come together and join you (either in person, connecting with your goal, or with their financial support) and you will have the added bonus of not wanting to let such a great cause down by not working towards your goal.

How do you set your goal?

The sky is the limit for the type of goal that you can choose. It could be dependent on weight loss, or a target of cycling a distance for example. The goal can involve excitement and adventure as well as there being a challenge that can be tailored for every different interest, fitness level and body type! Better yet, the more demanding your goal, the more philanthropic support it gets (or the deeper people are willing to get into their pockets!) to enable you to raise hard earned dollars for your charity.

Go on, push yourself out of your comfort zone! There’s canoeing, running rowing, cycling… even droptober (the month of October is especially dedicated to losing weight for charity). And if you still don’t find one that tickles your exercise sweat glands, why not make a challenge yourself, choose a charity that you are passionate about and see where it takes you.

Steps: Training and Funding Raising Choose your cause see: the event that suits you and your fitness regime: if you do not have easy access to a pool don’t say you will swim lapsGo public: tell everyone about it – it builds motivationSet a timeline: when is the Big Event?Recruit friends: your indispensable support team!Map your journey: set yourself a timeline of achievable goals between now and your event to maintain focus and track your progress

Read the rest of my blog for all things fitness, check my Ebooks, and reach out to chat!

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