Exercise remains one of the most powerful interventions available to improve mental, emotional, and physical health, as well as, increase our quality of life as we age. Participants who participate in a regular exercise program consisting of moderate aerobic exercise and strength training have significant health benefits over their less active peers. At our Boulder Physical Therapy and Lafayette Physical Therapy clinics we believe that exercise should be prescribed to all individuals regardless of age, ability, or health status.
The most important variable in any exercise program is consistency. Without weekly adherence to activity the other variables of frequency, intensity, duration, and type of exercise lose effectiveness. Previous research has documented the high drop out rates associated with exercise participants. In particular, those who are new to exercise, have injuries and illnesses, or have limited access to exercise facilities. A new research study reports on the most impactful variables on participant drop outs.
Collins and colleagues published a study on drop out rates and their reasons among sedentary overweight or sedentary obese individuals (Transl J Am Coll Sports Med. 2022). Authors studied over 900 individuals to a variety of different exercise programs. Participant groups included dosing of a caloric burn of 8-23 kcal/kg/week, intensities of 50-75% of VO2 max over a 6-8 month duration. Two of these 10 exercise groups concurrently performed strength training and one of 10 concurrently received dietary restrictions aiming to lose 7% of their body weight.
Authors found roughly 1 in 3 participants enrolled in the study dropped out of the exercise programs. Those who dropped out were more likely to be a minority, higher body mass index, and less fit than their peers who remained in the program. In addition, about 2/3 of these drop outs quit at the start of the program or as the program ramped up either total exercise per week or the intensity of the exercise program. As expected, the most common reason for drop out was lack of time (40%). Participants who made it through the higher volume and intensity remained adherent through the rest of the study period. Similar to any habit, staying with it through the early weeks makes it progressively easier to maintain.