Sticking With Exercise

Healthy exercise practices are about optimizing how you burn energy. For most people, it is not a quick-and-easy process to consistently achieve adequate levels of physical activity. Here are some tips to help you stick with exercising:

  1. Assess the realistic nature and sustainability of your target exercise behaviors. An example of a reasonable goal is doing 10% more than you did the previous week. If you did nothing last week, then you are more likely to succeed if your aim is to take 10 minute walks rather than planning 45 minutes. Remember that you can always exceed your goal but make the goal itself very attainable.
  2. If working-out at a fast and furious pace contributes to a general feeling of being “worn-out”, your metabolism can suffer. This can make adhering to your program harder because you do not see adequate returns from your labor. Your body is a living machine that needs to be in good working order to burn energy efficiently. The balance between building-up and breaking down the body’s biochemicals can get thrown-off if you drive yourself too hard, and if one of your goals is weight loss, this may make it more difficult.
  3. Give in! Go ahead and fully accept the fact that life’s priorities will always compete with, and sometimes win over well-intentioned exercise plans. It is important to accept that it is normal for exercise adherence to rise and fall. Craft goals that are about increasing the frequency with which you get back on track.
  4. One of the hardest parts about getting back-on-track is having the motivation to change course and get started. You may find yourself rationalizing about how you just do not have the time. A solution is to focus on the “changing course” part of the behavior. Promise that at the very least you will exercise for just a few minutes per day. With this approach, often you will find that you end-up exercising more frequently and for longer periods.
  5. It may help to think about and use the word “activity” instead of the precise word, “exercise.” Compared to sitting at your computer, taking the stairs, washing your car, cleaning your house, and yard work are activities you are more evolutionarily designed in which to participate. These tasks count towards your being a physically active person!
  6. List your personal reasons why being physically active is important to you. Set-up a practice, where if you cancel a planned exercise session, that you review your written intent. Plan ahead, chart/acknowledge your progress, and find social support.

Will these tips work? The ones that resonate for you will work for a while, but you will need to continually find ways to motivate yourself. When you are thrown off track, the primary loss is not the exercise you missed, but your frame-of-mind, your confidence, and your readiness to change. Surprisingly and happily, it typically does not take much action in the right direction to get moving again.

Anna Kotula, DPT

8-15-09