Okay, so your doctor just told you to do something you know should have been doing all along; he told you that you need to exercise. Your blood pressure is too high, blood sugar levels are out of control, and you’re over thirty pounds overweight. Also, you are getting more tired than usual and punishing yourself because you can’t fit into any clothes like you know you should. So what do you do? More than likely you join the nearest gym; maybe you complete a fitness test and have an exercise program created by an exercise physiologist for you to follow. You’re excited because you have a plan and you decide that you are going to visit the gym 3-4 days per week. Your intentions are great, but unfortunately you don’t set foot in the gym for another 3 months or maybe never again. What happened? You weren’t psychologically prepared. In order to make a successful lifestyle change such as beginning an exercise program, you must consider how prepared you are mentally. In order to create new habits, you must be psychologically ready. If your brain accepts change, then the change will occur.
Consider the following when assessing your readiness to make positive lifestyle changes:
- Are you willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes to live healthier?
- What or who is motivating you to make lifestyle changes?
- Are you making the decision to change for yourself or someone else?
- Will you be committed during the hard times when things aren’t going your way?
- Is exercise a top priority?
- Do you have anyone in your life that supports your lifestyle changes?
- Do you feel that you are in control of your life right now?
These questions help you to assess whether it is the right time for you to begin an exercise program or not. It is important that you make your attempt count because the more you fail, the harder it becomes for you to try again and adhere to your changes.
It is so easy to make excuses as to why you don’t continue with your lifestyle changes. Usually, time and discipline are major obstacles. However, obstacles are just blocks in the path that you can get around if you have a plan of action. How do you make more time? Or, you may wonder how you can teach yourself to stick with an exercise program for longer than two months. First of all, you must set realistic, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based goals. You have to know what you are working toward in your exercise program. Whatever goals you create, write them down and make a contract between someone who will hold you accountable for yourself. Post them somewhere you can clearly see them daily. As you achieve a goal, reward yourself and create new ones.
Also, you must make exercise a priority. Write down exercise times in your schedule and then do it. Moreover, you must not procrastinate with other activities that you do throughout the day. Block off proper amounts of time for tasks and complete them within the planned amount of time. If you have a big project to complete, ask for help or chop up the activity over several days until it is completed. Do you like to spend after-work time with the family? If so, then play fitness games with them like dodge ball, freeze tag, and relay races which are perfect for a family to do together.
Another part of creating a plan is to create coping strategies for possible obstacles. Write down the barrier, then create a primary and secondary coping strategy for those obstacles. Obstacles or barriers are anything that can impede your lifestyle change journey. You must accept that obstacles are a part of life, but you don’t have to succumb to them. Your chance of being successful increases when you develop plans to adhere to an exercise program. These obstacles may be physical, emotional, or mental. Just remember, no obstacle is so big that you cannot conquer it.
What if you still haven’t committed to making lifestyle changes? You should create a decisional balance sheet where you can weigh the benefits and risks of beginning an exercise program. For instance, an advantage might be that you can better control your sugar levels; and a disadvantage might be that the cost of a gym membership is too high. If the cons outweigh the benefits, you should figure out ways to cope with the cons. For instance, if a gym membership is too expensive, consider buying effective exercise tapes that you can follow or finding a community exercise recreation center that allows you to join for free. For every problem, there is a solution.
As you are taking the steps toward adopting new behaviors, make sure that you make gradual changes. If you try to do too much at one time then you will become overwhelmed and the risk of dropout increases. Start off by exercising three days a week; cutting out one unhealthy food group or beverage from your caloric intake; or increasing play time with your children or grandchildren. These changes are only some of the ways you can increase physical activity in your daily life. Creating new habits is a process, so be patient and you will be successful.
Dropping bad habits to create new ones can be a challenging task. It is important that you mentally prepare yourself to make these changes or you will fail at making the necessary lifestyle changes. Moreover, lack of planning adds to disappointment if you don’t take the time to do so. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. So, reach for success today by creating plans to live a healthier life!