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Motivation for Exercise Works Best
W
ith Support for Men and Women

WASHINGTON (AP) -- For college men, exercise works on the buddy system: If their friends exercise, they do, a study says.

This was not true for women, who relied more on support from their families. And a researcher thinks college women do less exercise than men do because the female buddy system isn't as strong as the men's.

Men benefit from a physical activity snowball effect, said researcher Lorraine Silver Wallace. "Because males are more active themselves, their friends are more likely to be active," she said. "They have more social support. There are more of them doing it."

Wallace recently published a study (journal of Preventive Medicine) that looked at questionnaire responses from 937 randomly selected Ohio State students. The students' exercise patterns were fairly similar to those in national surveys, said co-researcher Janet Buckworth of Ohio State. Thirty-nine percent of Ohio State men reported exercising at least 3 days a week for 20 minutes at a time over the previous six months. In comparison, 26 percent of women did.

The study was an attempt to get a handle on what motivates young adults to exercise, because too few do, and many of the exercisers drop out after they graduate, Buckworth said.

Men who exercised regularly commonly reported they had high social support from their friends, Wallace said. The 27 percent of men who weren't exercising, and weren't thinking of trying, commonly also had little encouragement from their friends, she said. And the 34 percent who were occasional exercisers had moderate support, she said.

For women, however, the crucial determinant seemed to be family support. The regular exercisers had high family encouragement to work out, while the 37 percent of women who weren't even thinking about starting to exercise commonly said their families weren't enthused. Another 37 percent who were occasional exercisers had moderate family support.

But family members of college students often live far from campus. So family may be a weaker substitute for the on-campus peer support that the men have, said Wallace, who called for more efforts to build peer networks for women.

Copyright 2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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