How To Avoid Dropping Out Of An Exercise Program

Written by psychologist  |  23. August 2002

Everybody joins a health spa with the best of intentions: to exercise regularly and become physically fit. However, somewhere within the first three to six months, more than half of the people drop out. Studies have reported attrition rates range from thirty to seventy percent. If the data are accurate, there appears to be a significant problem within the system or with the enrollees. If the environment is positive, supportive, and congenial, then we must look at specific individual factors. The data suggest that the most frequent reasons for high attrition rates are starting out too strenuously, setting goals too high, scheduling difficulties, boredom, and finding little reward in the activities. We all recognize the benefits of exercise and the fact that it must be a lifetime commitment to be effective. Therefore, we need ways to combat the tendency to drop out. Here are some simple techniques, which can increase your adherence to exercise programs: 1 Start out easy and work up to activities that are more strenuous. Do not push yourself too hard initially, as this can cause injury, discomfort, and is responsible for many people quitting their exercise programs. 2 Start out with small, attainable goals. The data show that those who do not reach their objectives drop out twice as frequently as who did reach their objectives. 3 Monitor your progress regularly and frequently. Be satisfied with progress, no matter how small. Even what are called "JND's" (Just noticeable differences) are positive gains. 4 Make exercising part of your life. Schedule it as part of your weekly activities and stick to it. Do not give in to any excuses. If you are tired or "not up to it", go to the gym anyway and socialize during your regular work out time. You may find that you will do some exercise anyway and will not feel guilty and angry with yourself for not working on your goals. 5 Find friends to work out with who will support your exercising. A little friendly competition may make the effort more enjoyable. In addition, a spouse who is reinforcing or who also exercises will increase the likelihood that you will continue. 6 Set up a positive reward system for yourself. Pair the aversiveness of working out with a materialistic or experiential reward. For example, reward yourself for every successful week by either buying yourself something or making each week worth points which can be exchanged for a larger reward. Remember, if you stick with it, the secondary rewards (the treats you give yourself) will be unnecessary as the benefits of exercising will be sufficient to keep up your interest. 7 Finally, what you tell yourself about your exercise program will dictate how you feel about it. So, always think positive and be satisfied with the little successes--they lead to bigger accomplishments.

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