Exercise is a common consideration each day for most adults, but immediate and long term life, work, and family barriers routinely block our best intentions. Despite its’ well established benefits, only 1 in 5 Americans meet our national guidelines on exercise each week. Those who do meet these guidelines each week have made exercise a positive habit, an essential part of their day, and in turn part of who they identify with as an individual. Conversely, those who do not meet these guidelines or trying to begin an exercise program may find it difficult to get started.
The inertia of a new habit is incredibly hard to establish and often you are pushing hard against these barriers, but not seeing immediate tangible benefits (weight loss, waist size, etc). Importantly, this does not mean you are not benefiting from your exercises but rather you are preparing yourself to finally pass through this breaking point when your hard work creates tangible results and you hit your goals. A classic study highlights what we can do each day to improve our chances of being successful with our daily exercise goals.
Milne and colleagues examined the impact of motivational variables on subsequent exercise compliance (Br J Health Psychol. 2002). Authors randomized 248 patients to one of three groups including
Control Group – continue with current exercise program
Motivation Intervention Group – educated on the benefits of exercise
Goal Setting Group – received motivation educational materials and written goals
This third group was required to write down their exercise goals in a tangible format including type of exercise, date, location, and time. For example, I will hike 30 minutes on Tuesday at 10am on the Mesa Trail. Each group tracked their exercise amounts to determine the impact of these interventions on their daily exercise volume. Surprisingly, no difference was found between individuals in the first two groups. The third group was twice as likely to exercise as the first two groups. Authors described this goal setting as implementation intention which can increase an individual’s motivation to complete a task.
As many of you know, if it is not on the paper, phone, or tablet schedule the activity is not completed. We recommend specifically scheduling your exercise time and guarding it against all possible barriers. To those who are just starting, keep working your consistency will pay off and you will reach your goals.