Reverse psychology is the idea that you can persuade someone to do something by telling them not to do it. Reverse psychology sometimes works with my surly children, but can it work for us adults?

Reverse psychology, isn’t a true form of psychology, because psychology is not about tricking people into behaviour change, but rather understanding what drives behaviour to facilitate change.

Exercise is a perfect example; asking someone not to exercise daily isn’t going to “make” them exercise, but asking them to exercise is a sure way to keep them from exercise, not out of spite but rather out of the necessity to protect their freedom to choose.

Let’s discuss, reverse psychology behaviour can loosely be explained by what psychologist term “reactance theory.” It occurs when a person feels that someone or something is taking away his or her choices or limiting their range of alternatives.

Therefore, telling someone to exercise comes with the threat of taking time away from other more preferred activity, such as relaxing after a hard day at work or missing out on a sleep-in for early morning exercise.


Understanding The Threats To Freedom


No one likes to be told what to do, including me. Being a thin person, the most common question people ask me is; “Why do I exercise when I don’t have to lose weight?” My reply is to maintain my freedom of choice.

At the moment I can move pain-free with or without exercise.  I choose to exercise daily with the understanding that my body will naturally deteriorate unless it is allowed to regenerate with exercise, because my lifestyle doesn’t include physical exertion.

Aesthetically I can change the colour of my hair, apply makeup, and wear clothes that will give youth to my age.  However, I’m aware there will come a time when what’s happening on the inside matters more to my quality of life than my reflection in the mirror.


Who’s that person in the mirror?

Have you ever thought about what you would look like when you’re much older? Perhaps you will look old? But have you ever wondered what it would feel like to be say 100 years old?

The many people I work with who are over 50 years of age and exercise regularly, say to me they feel no different to when they were years younger, and they don’t recognise the person in the mirror.

Time does deplete our youth, and exercise replenishes our body’s youthfulness. If I told you to exercise for your own good, you may tell me to take a hike…. If I were you, I would tell me to take a hike too, so I’m going to ask you some questions instead:

  • Would you like to wake each morning with purpose and vitality?
  • Do you see your future self on adventurous holidays, exploring the world?
  • Is a sense of humour, curiosity, learning, music or dance important to you?
  • Are you grateful for your family and friends, while looking forward to many years of good health?

Right now you don’t have to choose exercise; you can enjoy your life with what you have, and if you want more, then the WELLth program will be here for you. To find out how WELLth works see the link below.  


Live well with fitness!


Written by Anna: Nutritionist and Exercise Therapist