Motivating someone to work out isn’t easy, but research does suggest that the clothes (and presumably shoes) we wear can make a difference in how we feel and think. This effect is called “enclothed cognition”: how clothing affects perception.
A study from Northwestern University published in 2012 found that our thought processes are influenced by physical experiences, including the clothes we wear. Using undergraduates as subjects, the researchers examined the effect of clothing – in this case a white lab coat like doctors wear vs. street clothes – on the ability to notice incongruities, such as when the word “red” is printed in green letters. The students wearing lab coats did twice as well as those who wore street clothes. Study leader Adam D. Galinsky said that while more research is needed, it appears that what we wear affects our body and brain and can put us into a different psychological state.
These findings back up your sense that new shoes may help motivate your husband to exercise more. Assuming you want to encourage him to walk, jog or run I suggest you heed the advice of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and take him to shop for new shoes late in the day when feet have swollen a bit and the right size shoes won’t feel tight later on. You might consider footwear by Vionic with Orthaheel Technology, which I recommend to help reduce over-pronation and relieve associated common pains in the heel, knee and back.
I find that running, walking or cycling outdoors in a visually interesting environment can make the time go faster and take a lot of the drudgery out of a workout, as does exercising with a companion. If your husband is over 40 and has recently been inactive or has had any heart condition, chest pain, bone or joint problems or any medical condition that could affect his mobility or aerobic capacity, he should consult his doctor before undertaking an exercise program.
While you’re encouraging your husband to exercise, be sure to suggest that in addition to walking or running, he also focus on strength (resistance) training by using free weights or weight machines in a gym. The idea is to target all major muscle groups with 8 to 12 repetitions of 8 to 10 different exercises. (Your gift to your husband might also include a session or two with a personal trainer who can teach him these exercises and make sure he knows how to perform them properly.)
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Hajo Adam and Adam D. Galinsky, “Enclothed cognition,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, July 2012 – doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2012.02.008