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Tips to Enhance Exercise Adherence

Despite advancements in our understanding of obesity, weight regain after weight loss remains the most substantial problem in obesity treatment — with both the body and the mind conspiring against individual efforts to maintain weight loss,” said Dr. MacLean, co-chair of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) working group who authored the report, “Innovative Research to Improve Maintenance of Weight Loss,” published in the January 2015 issue of the journal Obesity.

Many thoughts go through a person’s mind when deciding whether or not to exercise. Thoughts such as “I’m too tired” and “I’m not in the mood” often precede (i.e., are antecedents to) the decision to not exercise.

After missing an exercise session or two, a person often feels as though she has completely failed. This person might decide to wait until the following week or the following month or even the following year to resume their program. In addition, it is common to feel discouraged when goals are not met and outcomes are not reached. These thoughts can lead to a brief lapse in an exercise program or to quitting the program altogether.

Above all, you are more likely to stick with your program if it is fun and convenient. Start by identifying activities that you enjoy. Then, determine the most convenient time to exercise with the least distractions.

  1. Challenge Your Thoughts: To begin with confront your thoughts, replace the negative thoughts with more realistic or positive ones.  For example, when a friend says, “I had a stressful week and only exercised twice ‘I really blew it,” you can respond, “I think it’s great that you were still able to get in two sessions, despite your stressful week!” It is important that neither you nor your friend forgets that engaging in some level of physical activity is better than engaging in no physical activity.
  2. Set Realistic Goals: Setting realistic goals contributes to long term lifestyle changes. Set both behavioral and outcome goals. A behavior goal could be exercising on weekdays at 7 P.M. for 30 minutes. Examples of outcome goals include losing 10 pounds in 2 months or jumping 1 inch higher by next game season. Understand the objectives behind your outcome goals so you can set appropriate behavioral goals. Focus on achieving your behavior goals since you will have much more control in achieving this type of goal. Do not get discouraged if your short term outcome goals are not achieved by your initial deadline. Change your behavioral goals in accordance to the achievement of your outcome goals.
  3. Prepare for lapses:  Develop a back up plan in case of unforeseen circumstances. Agree not to use your back up plan unless absolutely necessary. If you have not successfully stuck to your program in the past, analyze past obstacles and implement new strategies to overcome these barriers.
  4. Perform a variety of exercises and activities. Engage in utilitarian activities such as walking to the store, walking the dog, or catching up on yard work. Try new activities you think you may enjoy. Consider less traditional forms of exercise like kayaking, urban hiking, or participating in sports leagues or pickup games. Check to see if your company offers wellness incentive programs, fitness facilities, or corporate sports competitions. Perhaps, plan and train for an adventure vacation or sports event. Learn about these new activities by reading an instructional book, joining a training group, or hiring a personal trainer.
  5. Enhance Social Support: Find an exercise partner, hire a personal trainer, or exercise in a group setting. A training partner or exercise instructor can provide feedback, assistance, andmotivation. Participate in physical activities with your spouse, family, or friends. Be creative. Every week, take turns having family members choose their favorite family activity.
  6. Periodically reassess the goals: Regular fitness tests can objectively measure the effectiveness of your program and can possibly save you months or even years of hard work. If progress is not significant, immediate changes can be made to your program. A fitness professional can help you decide the tests most compatible with your fitness goals and how often you should test.

Start out with the techniques you believe will have the most impact in your adherence to your program: find activities you find fun and convenient, set goals, start out gradually, monitor your progress, perform a variety of exercises and activities, use diversions, and utilize social support.

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