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Exercise Adherence Tips


As many as 80% of people who begin an exercise program do not stick with it. While initially, many people are motivated to begin an exercise program. It even can be fun. But what does it take to stay motivated? How can you increase the likelihood that you will continue exercising?

One of the best motivators is doing something because you enjoy it. Also, seeing progress and reaching your goals are very motivating. The following suggestions will help you have fun and reach your exercise goals:

Keep it fun

  • Work out with friends. Not only will you have company, but you can give each other social support and encouragement. Also, it’s more difficult to skip a workout when some one else is counting on you being there.
  • Choose an activity you like. If you know you do not like jogging, chances are you won’t stick with it.
  • Learn a new activity. Take up a martial art, snowshoeing, or conquer the climbing wall. The new challenge will keep you coming back to meet the next challenge.
  • Begin easy and slowly increase your effort. Trying too much too soon can result in sore muscles or injury. Pain is not fun – and it is not necessary. Be realistic with what you expect to accomplish and aim for small but regular improvements.
  • Cross-train. Rather than do the same thing everyday, do different activities. For example, take an aerobics class once a week and a spinning class another day. This type of training will work different parts of your body and will keep you from becoming bored with exercise.

Monitoring Progress

  • Set realistic, measurable goals. Setting goals in terms of distance, time, amount lifted allows you to clearly see changes. You also will know exactly what you are aiming to do (e.g., run 3 miles or swim for 30 minutes). Begin with a realistic short-term goal (e.g., run ¼ mile and then walk ¼ mile). You will easily see your progress toward your goal.
  • Keep an exercise journal. From the first time you exercise, keep track of how much weight you lifted, how far or for how long you walked, etc. You could make a weekly or monthly graph of your improvements. Seeing improved results will motivate you to work toward new goals.

Fit Exercise into Your Life

  • Convenience. Choose an activity that you can fit into your current schedule. For example, select a health club close to home or work. Find a time of day where you are most likely to avoid conflicts with other activities (e.g., early in the morning, lunch, or evening). The more convenient exercise, the more likely you’ll stick with it. Choosing a fitness facility with childcare may be helpful for some exercisers.
  • Establish a routine. Once you pick a place and time to exercise, keep doing it. Make it a part of your regular schedule. For example, block out the time in your planner for exercise. As you stick to your routine, exercise will become a habit.
  • Make exercise a priority. Schedule exercise before scheduling other meetings or activities. Make a commitment to your exercise program.
  • Combine family-time with exercise. Go for a walk, hike, or take a bike ride together. Make activity something everyone in the family can enjoy together. Be creative (e.g., hike to a picnic area).
photo of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology

By the Association for Applied Sport Psychology

Founded in 1985, the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) is the leading organization for sport and performance psychology professionals, including Certified Mental Performance Consultants® (CMPC), who work with athletes, coaches, non-sport performers (i.e., dancers and musicians), exercisers, business professionals, and tactical occupations (i.e., military personnel, firefighters, and police officers) to enhance their performance from a psychological standpoint.


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