Alumna Michelle Segar spent the last 20 years refining a program to help people actually stick with their exercise plans, and she hopes her new book will encourage even more to go the distance.

As a kinesiology graduate student, Michelle Segar (‘88, U-M M.S. ‘95, U-M M.P.H. ‘97, Ph.D. ‘06), conducted her master’s thesis to test the theory that exercise would decrease anxiety and depression among cancer survivors. The study found that it did, and after it ended researchers called participants back to follow up. “The participants sat around talking about how great exercise was, how good it was for them, how much better they felt when they exercised,” Segar recalls. “And how almost none of them were still doing it.”

The participants gave the usual excuses: They had work. They had errands, spouses, children to raise, houses to fix. It wasn’t an issue of being cancer survivors, says Segar, it was an issue of being busy adults who’d been socialized to rank their responsibilities in a particular way. “I was floored,” she recalls. “Even people who had faced a life-threatening illness were not prioritizing their own self care by being physically active. And in that moment I decided this was the problem I wanted to solve.”

Her solution, laid out in her recently published book, No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, draws from a variety of disciplines she studied at U-M, including psychology, sociology, women’s studies, kinesiology, and public health. It falls somewhere in the space bounded by academics, health care, education, and self-help. “The ideas and science in No Sweat are relevant everywhere because creating sustainable behavior change is a top priority everywhere, especially with the universal need to reduce health care costs.”

Read the full article "Working Out Why We Don’t Exercise" at LSA Today.