Setting Goals & Sticking With a Plan (Continued)

Sticking With Your Plan

With your goals for aerobic and muscular fitness along with flexibility and body composition written down, you now need to plan for success. To reap health and fitness benefits, your exercise plan needs to become a regular part of your life...for your life. A number of skills and strategies that experts have identified as helpful for promoting physical activity are outlined below.

Creating a Decisional Balance Sheet

Changing your life by adding exercise to an already busy day is a major decision. As with any big decision, creating a list of the pros and cons can be productive. Consider the things that support your decision to increase your activity level while also acknowledging the factors that may inhibit that change. This is called a decisional balance sheet.

As you examine your own list of factors impending your commitment to regular exercise, consider how you might modify them to move them to the pro side of the list, or at least how you might address them. For example, the extra time that a regular exercise program takes is undeniable. However, you can modify your perspective on the time you spend. You can think of your exercise time as an opportunity to clear your mind and unwind from the stresses of school, work, or home responsibilities. You may select aerobic activities such as treadmill walking or stationary biking that allow you to read or watch television — activities you find rewarding but typically don't take time to enjoy. If you have a jam-packed schedule, consider breaking your exercise routine into multiple shorter bouts during the day.

Another common concern is the fear of injury or even death with increased physical activity. Certain health-related situations may require you to meet with your healthcare provider to ensure the safety of your exercise program. For most apparently healthy people, starting with light to moderate intensity and progressing slowly will minimize the likelihood of injury as well as heart attack or death. The health benefits of a regular physical activity program are greater than the risk of adverse events for almost everyone.

Finally, if you find your current exercise routine boring, find other options! Your exercise program should include activities you enjoy. Consider adding more variety or joining a group exercise class. Listening to music or stopping by your local library for a downloadable book can provide mental variety even if you keep your activity the same. Of course, when using a headset, be sure to be indoors or in a controlled environment so you do not become distracted from observing traffic or others around you.

Gaining Social Support

Social support is a very strong motivator. Consider the encouragement provided by a spouse who supervises a young adult so the other spouse can head outside for a run or attend a group exercise session at a local health club. Research shows that active and ongoing support from significant others helps people stick with their exercise programs. Parents who model an active lifestyle are providing a wonderful example for their children. Even better is to be active together as a family. A family outing to a local park can be a great stress reliever as well as an opportunity for everyone to be active. Physical activity is important throughout the lifespan. Developing active habits early in life will have lifelong benefits.

Participating in group activities — with family members, friends, or local groups — can also be a strong motivator to stay active. Most communities have clubs or associations of people with similar interests (e.g., cycling, running, mall walking, ballroom dancing). These are wonderful opportunities to meet new people and find real enjoyment in your exercise program.

If your family or close friends do not support your desire to be active, seek out other support systems. Some people, when facing their own health problems, may feel threatened by your resolution to move forward to better health. Don't let others sabotage your plans. Find an exercise partner or another fitness class member who values activity as much as you do. By encouraging each other, you can generate the motivation to continue. Hopefully over time, your example with persuade your family members and friends to join you in a physically active lifestyle.

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Last Modified Date: January 13, 2014

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