Supporting a Cause Can Add Motivation to Exercise Regimen

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • This weekend I’ll be participating in the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk in my area. It’s a short jaunt – just a 3K walk and fun run. Earlier this week, I started realizing that many people do what I do – mix exercise while supporting a cause they hold close to their heart. And in fact, some people seem to make training for these events the center of their exercise regimen.

    Take Michelle, who has focused most of her effort to fighting cancer through participating in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, Susan G. Komen 5K Walks, and the 3-Day Komen for the Cure. “I participate because I HATE cancer! I watched a very dear friend die from pancreatic cancer nine years ago on Nov. 9,” she explained. “Since then I have lost several other friends to cancer, including my roommate’s mother to breast cancer. I hope that by selecting one organization to support that they will find a cure, and that will unlock the door to other cancers. Several new drugs have been discovered because of Komen research. There will be many more to follow!”

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    Alice also has participated in numerous events, often to support a family member or friend. “Most of the time, I participate because a family member or friend asks me to,” she said. “While I may not have a strong personal tie to the cause, my family member or friend does, so I do it to support them. I rarely just stumble upon a charity run/ride and sign up for it out of the blue.” Her activities have included: the Buddy Walk, to support people with Down syndrome and their advocates; the Relay for Life; the Mamma Jamma Bike Ride, to support breast cancer treatment and care organizations in Texas; and the Rockdale Basset Waddle. She also participated in the May Day Challenge Bike Ride: Junction 55, which helps adults with disabilities get employment. “This is one of the rare cases where I stumbled upon the event and have no real family or friend tie to the cause” she said, adding that she signed up because it was a local event and she has an interest in biking.

    Both Alice and Michelle raise funds for their efforts. “The 3 Day requires a minimum of $2,300 to walk. The others require anything from $25-$100,” said Michelle, who also participates in an AIDS Walk.  Alice added, “I normally raise funds for the event along with participating. However, because I participate in so many of them, I normally pick and choose which ones I push most for donations each year. If I don't solicit donations from others, Wil [Alice’s husband] and I normally make a personal contribution along with our registration fee for the event.”

    Training comes into play for some events. For instance, Alice and her husband have a training regimen to participate in the Mamma Jamma bike ride (which has distances of 10, 25, 45, 65 and 100 miles). Michelle does cross training to prepare for the events in which she participates. Her routine includes biking, elliptical and treadmill training, lots of stretching, and Wii (for fun).

  • So does working out to assist a cause make a difference to these women? “The exercise is an added benefit to supporting the cause,” Michelle said. “I would support these causes even if I did not have to exercise.” For Alice, the motivation differs by event. “For most of them, the biggest motivation is supporting a family member or friend, and the opportunity to get exercise at the same time makes it that much more enticing,” she explained. “However, for events like the Mamma Jamma, the bigger motivation for me is the exercise/challenge of pushing myself to do something I didn't think I could do. Tying that to an important cause makes the hours of training that much more worth it for me.”

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    I’d encourage you to consider setting a goal of participating in an athletic event that benefits a charity. Knowing that you’re doing something good for a cause as well as your own physical health can motivate you to get moving.

Published On: November 19, 2010