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Maintaining an exercise routine

Words by Dr Camille Short, Melbourne University

Research suggests that people are more likely to stick with a regular exercise programme when:

  • they have confidence to perform exercise & overcome barriers
  • exercise is planned & they have an established routine
  • exercise is enjoyable
  • they are supported by others

With this in mind, you might find the following tips helpful:

  • Take some time to consider what your main barriers are and how you could address them with confidence. For example, if physical problems are your main barrier you could consider seeing someone that can prescribe exercises with these in mind. If time is your main barrier, you could start by focusing on achieving a small amount each day (e.g., 10 minutes).
  • Set a goal that is  just right – i.e., the right mix of achievable and challenging. If your goal is unrealistic, it might be tempting to quit at the first sight of trouble. If it is too easy, you won’t feel like you have really achieved something. A goal that is just right will keep you focused, help you identify what barriers need addressing, if any, and give you a sense of accomplishment when you achieve it.
  • Plan your exercise. Schedule in your exercise like you would with other appointments. To form a habit, aim to schedule your exercise as consistently as possible (e.g., after or before breakfast every day). Once a habit is formed there is a lot less mental effort and struggle involved. This technique is very useful if you have been given exercises to do at home. Make sure the exercise professional provides you with a written copy of instructions.
  • Let go of any guilt, be kind to yourself and give yourself the best chance of enjoying exercise. This might mean adapting your program so that exercise at an intensity that feels good (known as affect regulated exercise), pairing exercise with other enjoyable activities like listening to music or spending time with friends and family.
  • Join an exercise program. Allow participation with others to help motivate & encourage you to continue exercising.