At the risk of sounding trite, I truly believe that each year, month, week, day, and minute is a gift, not to be taken for granted. And that is why we resolve at this time each year to make a concerted effort to improve ourselves; mentally, physically and spiritually, so that we may live a longer and healthier life, in order to spend more time with the friends and family we love.
Not surprisingly, getting physically fit and losing weight are the top resolutions to begin each New Year. According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 10 million Americans choose to join one of the 45,000 health clubs and hope to get fit and healthy for life. Unfortunately, if starting an exercise program is the hard part, than sticking to it is the hardest part.
Once the initial excitement and enthusiasm wears off, so too does the discipline and determination necessary to overcome the many distractions in our lives to make exercise a priority for life. Diane Klein, PhD polled long-term exercisers (those exercising at least 3 times per week for more than 13 years) what motivated them to “stick with the program.” The answers are in order of importance. Please note that “appearance” was NOT at the top of the list.
10 Motivators to Stick to an Exercise Program
- Feelings of well-being
- Pep and energy
- Enjoyment of the exercise
- Making exercise a priority
- Sleeping better
- Feeling alert
- Being relaxed
- Weight management
10 Tips to Stick to an Exercise Program
- Add variety to your program – stick to your basic program to meet your goals but add variety to stick to your program. On off days walk in the woods, play tennis, ride a bike, and swim. One day do upper body and the next lower body.
- Find an exercise buddy – no one wants to let their buddy down so the likelihood of compliance is much greater when you have someone depending on you. Make sure it is a good match…someone with positive energy!
- Make exercise a priority – friends and family must understand that this is important to you. It is a non-negotiable part of your day, like taking a vitamin or brushing your teeth.
- Exercise first thing in the morning – For many people it is best to exercise before all of the demands of the day come into play
- Exercise on the way home from work – For others, it is best to exercise after they fulfill their other obligations but before they get home, eat and settle in. Some days it will vary.
- Exercise even when you are tired – keep in mind that you will be energized after you exercise.
- Keep a log of your exercise – writing down the dates, times, speed, distance, reps and sets can help you monitor your progress.
- Look for signs of progress – the scale is only one sign of progress. Make note of how your clothes fit, how much energy you have, the pep in your step and the improvement in your exercise log.
- Walk – incorporate walking into your daily routine. Walk to the store, walk the dog, walk when you play golf and take the stairs.
- Reward yourself – this is an individual preference but try to avoid a food overdose. For example, buy a new dress when you lose 10 pounds, go away for the weekend for the next 10 pounds. Do whatever works for you.
Lastly, if nothing else motivates you to continue your exercise routine, remember that researchers have found that the benefits of regular physical activity are numerous:
- Loss or Maintained Body Weight
- Reduces LDL /Raises HDL Cholesterol
- Improves Circulation and Blood Pressure
- Reduces Risk of Heart Disease
- Prevents Bone Loss
- Reduces Stress/Muscle Tension
- Lowers Risk of Depression
- Improves Sleep Pattern
- Improves Strength and Flexibility
- Improves Balance/Reduces Risk of Falls
- Improves Immune System
- Improves Pain Threshold
Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body. Keep moving, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and live long and well!
NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum” in the Scranton Times-Tribune.
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.