Here in the UK we are experiencing a January type fitness splurge because of our unexpected success at the Olympics.  At a time when most retailers are reporting a downturn in trade, sales of sports equipment has doubled. Bike sales have gone up by 130 percent and swimsuits and goggles by 135 percent.

Unfortunately we Brits are keener on the equipment than the hard work that should go with it.  See my article written some time back about this phenomenon –  “Spare A Thought For Redundant Exercise Machines“.

But will this Olympic glory have a new and lasting effect on the nations attitude to fitness?  Previous examples are not encouraging…

Am I alone in having the perception that Australia is full of superfit potential athletes?  Here is something I read this weekend that really surprised me.  Australia has soared to the top of the obesity charts with 60 per cent of the population now overweight.  This is after the Australian 2000 Olympics where they excelled with 58 medals, only eight years ago.

Little research has been carried out into what motivates people to exercise.  It seems that for adults the main factors are encouragement, facilities and support close to home.  The turn-offs are anxiety about physique and unrealistic expectations.

Role models appear to influence children more but have most impact if they present an attainable target. A glamarous school swimming captain may change behaviour more than an Olympic swimming hero.  One really important role model though for kids is their parents who can be very influential if they exercise.

Once the triumphant glow of Beijing has worn off what is really going to have an impact is sustained effort to make sporting activity easy and the norm – not something for superheroes.  Close to home and realistic targets is the way forward.  

Our government appears to be investing in community sport in the run up to the 2012 Olympics here in London which is one part of the equation.  But the people who really influence our exercise patterns are the role models immediately around us.  Producing enough of those (including active parents) appears to be the real challenge.