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The Princeton Longevity Center Medical News

Simple ways to increase your chances of success with your exercise program!

By: Christopher Volgraf, ACSM HFI®, NSCA-CPT® 

Health professionals across the country have observed that about half of the people who join exercise programs drop out within the first 12 months.  Even medically motivated patients with diagnosed heart disease share the same drop out rate.  So what can one do to better their chances of sticking with their exercise program?  Every individual has one way or another to help motivate them to succeed; it is just a matter of taking the time to figure it out.  It might not occur to you that in order to better your chances of success, you may need to set attainable short and long term goals, block out 20-60 minutes in a day for exercise, chart progress on a log sheet, and keep you workouts fresh by changing the intensity, volume, or variety of the exercise.  Exercise is a voluntary action.  No one can force you to do it…but plenty of people will tell you to do it!  Exercise is also time consuming.  Chances are you cannot find enough time in the day to complete your daily activities of living, let alone exercise.  So how do you do it?

Before you even decide to exercise your body, exercise your mind.  We all know a successful person who had a plan in life, set attainable goals, tracked their progress, reached their goals, and reestablished their goals.  This person might even be you!  In order to be successful in something, you need to have a plan; success just doesn’t happen automatically!  Take the time to set up a plan and write a personal contract for your exercise program.  Why do you want to exercise?  Set attainable goals for the short term (each week or two) and a long term goal (6-12 months in the future).  Be sure that you select goals that are realistic, attainable and measurable. Stay positive that you can reach your goals and when you do, revise and reestablish a new set of goals.  Success breeds success.  We all like playing for a winning team!  Build a winning streak by reaching your goals and make it your duty to keep the streak alive.

Make time for your exercise program.  Try to block off a 20-60 minute period of time solely devoted to exercise.  Try not to let anything get in your way.  We all have responsibilities in life that may interfere from time to time, but don’t let one day or even a week throw you off completely.  Stumbling blocks are bound to come across your path; you simply need to keep moving forward.  There may be times when you find yourself at home without the kids and your time is your own.  Take full advantage of it!  It may not be your blocked off time slot for exercise, but that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise when the opportunity presents itself.

When taking on an exercise program, we need to have a measuring stick when it comes to progress.  Like it or not, our body will not always show progress…especially in the first 8 weeks or so.  Most of the progress is made by increasing the lines of communication between our muscles and our nervous system, so the physical image of progress is not going to stare you in the mirror in the beginning stages of exercise. Even though body composition changes have not occurred, that doesn’t mean you have not made progress.  The only way to truly follow your progress is to chart your program on a log sheet.  You may see that you have increased your weights in every resistance exercise in your program or that you have built yourself up to 40 minutes on the treadmill when you started at 20 minutes.  Knowing that you are making progress with your exercises should be enough to keep you moving forward.  The physical changes will come about…those changes take a little more time than we would like sometimes.

Often individuals will complain that they have hit a “plateau” in their exercise program, and they are struggling to continue with exercise because of the lack of results.  A closer look at their exercise program will show that little has been done to increase the intensity, volume or variety in their program.  The body will respond to exercise and eventually reach a stale point when progress has all but disappeared.  When this happens, and it will happen, change the intensity of the exercises by increasing weight resistance or increasing your speed on the treadmill to alter the intensity.  Increase the number of sets, repetitions, or number of exercises to alter the volume of exercise.  In order to keep the exercise program exciting, try new pieces of equipment or participate in an exercise class.  If you become bored with what you are doing with your exercise program, you are setting yourself up to fail.  Keep it fun…keep it fresh!

These are just a few ways to help you on the path of success with your exercise program.  It is up to you to put them into practice and make exercise a habit.  If you need help, ask for it!  There are plenty of friends, family and fitness professionals that can point you in the right direction or offer you a support system when you need it most.  Chances are they are going through the same thing!

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