Wednesday 22 August 2018

Fitness: Four reasons why it’s so hard to make exercise a habit!

UFC star Joe Duffy works on his boxing skills with trainer Hercules Kyvelos at Montreal's Tristar Gym in October 2017. Doing a workout with a trainer or friend helps give new exercisers motivation and accountability.
We’ve all heard the excuse about being too busy to exercise. But with most Canadians spending 18 hours a week watching TV, it’s clear that there’s some wiggle room in the hours not already claimed by work and family commitments.
And being busy isn’t the only excuse offered up by those who try and fail to make exercise a habit. A University of Alberta research team wanted to know more about why 50 per cent of new exercisers hangs up their workout gear within six months of starting. They interviewed exercise dropouts and grouped their reasons into four general themes.

The results don’t live up to the hype

With so much written about the benefits of exercise, it’s no surprise that most newbies are anxious to reap the results of a good sweat. And according to the researchers, they aren’t disappointed by how they feel in those first few weeks of a workout routine. They have more energy during the day, sleep better at night, have more endurance and feel stronger while performing everyday chores.
But as welcome as these results are, they aren’t enough to sustain the enthusiasm of that first couple of months when the benefits of regular exercise are so acutely felt. Instead, that initial satisfaction is outweighed by the effort it takes to overcome the many barriers — lack of time, inconvenience and so forth — associated with maintaining an exercise routine.
“Whereas participants expressed pleasure with the physical and psychological outcomes they experienced through participation in the exercise program, many participants also expressed disappointment with a failure to obtain all of the outcomes they had expected or hoped for, especially when it came to visible results,” reported the researchers.
Basing fitness success on inches lost is almost always cause for disappointment. It’s better to set performance goals, which are more easily achieved. Success is one of the strongest incentives to keep exercising.

Scheduling difficulties

Reserving a regular block of time in an already packed schedule is a significant challenge for new exercisers. Struggling to manage the day-to-day routine, combined with any unforeseen and often non-negotiable demands that pop up, makes getting to the gym difficult.
Exercise veterans are faced with these same challenges but are better able to take them in stride, adjusting their schedule and their workouts accordingly. Novice exercisers, however, are more likely to forgo their workout when making scheduling decisions. They’re also less tolerant or less flexible when it comes to adjusting their workout around some of the downsides of exercise, like having to do a workout during peak gym hours, when wait times to use the machines can be frustrating.
New exercisers are so vulnerable to hiccups in their workout schedule that one change to their routine — an illness or injury, a sick family member, a demanding project at work — is often reason enough to give up exercise altogether. Even the most dedicated exercisers struggle to stay on track every now and again; the difference is they see interruptions to their routine as temporary, not permanent.

Trouble prioritizing exercise

The change in mindset needed to move exercise up the list of priorities and keep it there is hard to master. Sure, family and work come first and second, but the difference between committed exercisers and exercise dropouts is that the committed believe they are better parents and better employees with exercise in their lives. As such, they see taking valuable minutes away from work and/or family for a quick workout not so much of an indulgence, but as a vital part of their physical and emotional well-being.
Those hooked on exercise head to the gym or out for a run, swim, walk or bike ride when the stress of everyday life hits hard. They also urge their family to join them in being active, making exercise a part of, not a distraction from, family life.

Going solo

Most new exercisers need a push to get off the couch, like the extra accountability that an exercise buddy or trainer offers. The importance of social support from family and friends is often overlooked by new exercisers who tend to go it alone.
Maybe it’s worry about failing that makes it tough for new exercisers to state their intentions and rely on others for support when internal motivation ebbs, but study after study suggests that having an exercise buddy or someone else to hold you accountable increases the chance of success.
Sharing your frustrations and successes makes those early days of exercise more palatable. You’re not alone at the gym trying to figure out how to select an interval workout on the treadmill, and you can share a laugh, instead of feeling embarrassed, when you wobble trying to hold a challenging pose in a yoga class.
There’s a reason for the popularity of running, cycling and masters swim clubs, and for the long waiting lists to get into old-timer hockey and softball leagues: exercise is more fun with someone at your side.

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