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What’s your reason?

Motivation: the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behavior.

Lots of people appear to be exercising in an attempt to stay young and to improve the quality of their life. In addition, judging from the looks of store windows, we’re in the midst of a fitness craze. Most department stores carry a wide variety of athletic sportswear, not only for the physical activity, but also for leisure and even work. More and more fitness clubs appear to be opening up as people try to get or stay in shape. But the fact is that most Americans do not regularly participate in physical activity (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 1996, 1999) despite the physiological and psychological benefits of exercise, including reduced tension and depression, increased self-esteem, lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, better weight control, and enhanced functioning of systems (metabolic, endocrine, and immune systems).

Reasons to Exercise
With much of the adult population either sedentary or not exercising enough to gain health benefits, the first problem that exercise and fitness professionals face is how to get these people to start exercising. People are motivated by different reasons, but a good place to start is to emphasize the diverse benefits of exercise (President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport, 1996). Along with getting started, the issue of maintenance is just as critical, because these individuals must continue to be physically active once started.

So what are some of the typical reasons for people to start an exercise program? (in no particular order)
- Weight Control
- Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular disease
- Reduction of Stress and Depression - Enjoyment
- Enhancement of Self-Esteem
- Opportunities to Socialize

Typical reasons for not exercising (in no particular order)
- Perceived lack of time
- Lack of energy
- Lack of motivation

Problem of Exercise Adherence
Once sedentary people have overcome inertia and started exercising, the next barrier they face has to do with continuing their exercise program. Evidently many people find it easier to start an exercise program than to stick with it: About 50% of participants drop out of an exercise programs within the first 6 months. Exercisers often have lapses in trying to adhere to exercise programs. A few reasons have been put forth as to why people have a problem with exercise adherence despite the fact that it is beneficial both physiologically and psychologically.

These include:
- The prescriptions are often based solely on fitness data,

ignoring people’s psychological readiness to exercise.
- Most exercise prescriptions are overly restrictive and are not optimal for enhancing motivation for regular exercise.
- Rigid exercise prescriptions based on principles of intensity, duration, and frequency are too challenging for many people, especially beginners.
- Traditional exercise prescription does not promote self- responsibility or empower people to make long-term behavior change.

However, Dishman and Buckworth (1997) noted that potential relapses may have a more limited impact if the individual plans and anticipates them, recognizes them as temporary impediments, and develops self-regulatory skills for preventing relapses to inactivity. Given that exercise programs have a high relapse rate, they are like dieting, smoking cessation, or decreasing alcohol consumption (Prochaska & Velicer, 1997). People intend to change a habit that negatively affects their health and well- being. In fact, fitness clubs traditionally have their highest new enrollments in January and February, when sedentary individuals feel charged by New Year’s resolutions to turn over a new leaf and get in shape.

Preventing a Relapse
Unfortunately when people start to exercise they often relapse into no exercise at all, or they exercise less frequently. Here are a couple of tips to help prevent a relapse.
- Expect and plan for lapses, such as scheduling alternative activities while on vacation. - Develop coping strategies to deal with high-risk situations ( e.g., relaxation training, time management, imagery).

- Replace “shoulds” with “wants” to provide more balance in your life. “Shoulds” put pressure and expectations on you.
- Use positive self-talk and imagery to avoid self-dialogues focusing on relapse
- Identify situations that put you at risk and attempt to avoid or plan for these settings. - Do not view a temporary relapse as catastrophic because this undermines confidence and willpower (e.g., if you didn’t exercise for an entire week, you are not a failure; just start again next week).

Determinants of Exercise Adherence
Determinants of exercise behavior fall into two (2) categories. 
1 - Personal factors
2 - Environmental factors

It should be noted that the determinants of exercise are not isolated variables; rather, they influence and are influenced by each other as they contribute to behavioral outcomes (King, Oman, Brassington, Bliwise, & Haskell, 1997).
For example: A person who values exercise and is self-motivated may be less influenced by the weather and thus more likely to exercise when it is cold or rainy than someone for whom fitness is less important and who needs more external motivation and support.

Personal Factors that may determine exercise adherence
There are three types of personal characteristics that may influence exercise adherence: - Demographic Variables
- Cognitive Variables
- Behaviors

Demographic Variables
Demographic variables traditionally have had a strong association with physical activity. Education, income, and socioeconomic status have all been consistently and positively related to physical activity. Meaning, people with higher incomes, more education, and higher occupational status are more likely to be physically active.

Cognitive and Personality Variables
Of the many cognitive variables available and tested, self- efficacy and self-motivation have been found to be the most consistent predictors of physical activity.
Self-efficacy is simply an individual’s belief that he/she can be successfully perform a desired behavior. Getting started in an exercise program, for example, is likely affected by the confidence one has in being able to perform the desired behavior (e.g., walking, running, aerobics) and keep the behavior going. Therefore, fitness professionals need to help people feel confident about their bodies through social support, encouragement, and tailoring of activities to meet their needs and abilities. Fitness Professionals also should provide beginning exercisers with a sense of success and competence in their exercise programs to enhance their desire to continue participation.

Self-motivation has also been consistently related to exercise adherence and has been found to distinguish adherents from dropouts across many settings, including fitness centers, preventative medicine clinics, corporate fitness gyms (Dishman & Sallis, 1994). Self-motivation may reflect self-regulatory skills, such as effective goal setting, self- monitoring of progress, and self-reinforcement, which are believed to be important in maintaining physical activity. Combined with other measures, self-motivation can predict adherence even more accurately. A cumulative body of evidence also supports the conclusion that beliefs about and expectations of benefits from exercise are associated with increased physical activity levels and adherence to structured physical activity programs among adults (e.g., Marcus, Pinto, Simkin, Audrain, & Taylor, 1994; Marcus et al., 2000). Fitness professionals need to inform people of the benefits of regular physical activity and give them ways to overcome perceived barriers.

Past participation in an exercise program is the most reliable predictor of current participation (Dishman & Sallis, 1994). Someone who has remained active in an organized program for 6 months is likely to be active a year or two later.

Early involvement in sport and physical activity should be encouraged, because there is a positive relation between childhood exercise and adult physical patterns

It isn’t just mere participation in school sports that will predict adult physical activity. Active children who receive parental encouragement for physical activity will be more active as adults than will children who are sedentary and do not receive parental support and encouragement.

Environmental Factors that may determine exercise adherence
Environmental factors can help or hinder regular participation in physical activity. These factors include the social environment (family and peers), the physical environment (weather, time pressures, and distance from facilities), and characteristics of the physical activity (intensity and duration of the exercise bout). Environments that promote increased activity-offering easily accessible facilities and removing real and perceived barriers to an exercise routine - are probably necessary for the successful maintenance of changes in exercise behavior.

For example: adherence to physical activity is higher when individuals live or work closer to a fitness club, receive support from their spouse for the activity, and can manage their time effectively.

Social Environment
Social support is a key aspect of one’s social environment, an such support from family and friends has consistently been linked to physical activity and adherence to structured exercise programs among adults (USDHHS, 1996).

Spousal support is critical to enhance adherence rates for people in exercise programs. Spouses should be involved in orientation sessions or in parallel exercise programs

Physical Environment
A convenient location is important for regular participation in community-based exercise programs. Both the perceived convenience and the actual proximity to home or work site are factors that consistently affect whether someone chooses to exercise and adheres to a supervised program (King, Blair, & Bild, 1992). The closer to a person’s home or work the exercise setting is, the greater the likelihood that the individual will begin and stay with a program. Besides the actual location of the physical activity is the climate or season, with activity levels lowest in winter and highest in summer.

Physical Activity Characteristics
The success of failure of exercise programs can depend on several structural factors. Some of the more important factors are the intensity, frequency, and duration of the exercise; whether the exercise is done in a group or alone; and qualities of the exercise leader. If the program is too intense, too frequent and requires too much time, a client will have a lower adherence to exercise programming.

Too hard, too fast will result in failure in program adherence.
Although group exercising generally produces higher levels of adherence than exercising alone, A tailored program to fit an individual’s needs and the constraints they feel can help adherence to a program.

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