How you Can Help Motivate others to Exercise & Live a Healthy Lifestyle

Motivate others to Exercise

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"I don't have time." "My health is fine." "It's too much effort." Sound familiar? No, this isn't you talking, but rather other people - perhaps friends or loved ones - responding to your advice that they take up bodybuilding. Naturally, being the fitness buff that you are, their sedentary lifestyle causes concern, especially in light of the medical consensus that regular exercise helps reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and other life-threatening illness, not to mention increasing your overall sense of well-being, stamina and, yes, how good you look. But if you've tried to encourage someone to become more active and had little success, don't give up! We have some techniques that may turn them around and get them into the game.

Getting on Track

As a place to start, find out what level of knowledge your family and friends have about health and exercise. What you discover may surprise you. Ann Grandjean, EdD, director of the prestigious International Center for Sports Nutrition in Omaha, Nebraska, puts it this way: "Some people clearly don't make the connection between exercise and physiology. Sometimes when they do, they're willing to make the needed lifestyle changes." If this is the situation with your loved ones, your ability to increase their awareness may be all that's needed to get them moving.

Other questions to ask might include: Have you exercised in the past? What kind of experience did you have? What type of exercise did you do? Do you feel that exercise won't benefit you? Depending on the answers, you might have an opportunity to challenge their old beliefs and offer more accurate and logical information.

Education is definitely key In the words of sport psychologist Keith Henschen, PhD, from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, "The more informed a person is about the potential outcomes to be expected from exercise, the more likely he or she is to stick with a fitness program." Of course, influencing your loved ones' values and beliefs may prove to be far more difficult than outlined here. But if you can challenge the logic of their beliefs and add knowledge, you're on the right track.

Once you're successful in stimulating someone's interest in exercise, what's the next step? Grandjean, who lectures widely for such organizations as the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Strength & Conditioning Association, and whose work with athletes provides her with a unique perspective on how to get people to stick to a diet and exercise regimen, suggests, "Provide this person with a list of activities that he or she can choose from as options for making lifestyle changes." Henschen agrees: "Find out what really excites them, choose activities that are noncompetitive and start slowly. If you're dealing with a young person, the activity has to be fun as well."

Sticking With It

Starting an exercise program is only half the battle. Adherence is the other half that'll help you win the war. For that reason, the person you're trying to motivate should learn about the process of getting fit. Jeff Potteiger, PhD, CSCS, director of the exercise physiology lab at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, advises: "The key is to get people to understand that fitness is a lifestyle and not an immediate process. We live in a society that reinforces the concept that people can have whatever they want right now. This often creates the belief in people's minds that they should be able to lose weight or get in shape quickly."

One way to deal with this obstacle is to continually reinforce the idea that persistence over time will produce results. This is why any person who's beginning or returning to exercise should learn how to set attainable goals, self-monitor his or her progress, expect setbacks and plan for relapses.

What if your friends aren't receptive to your efforts? Be aware that being too enthusiastic or over aggressive can backfire on you. Grandjean says: "Continually nagging non-receptive people to change their lifestyle can cause them to withdraw from you. As a messenger, are you a living example of the lifestyle you're trying to promote, or are you just being a preacher?" So before you invest your time and energy toward helping your loved ones develop healthy exercise habits, know that you're more than just a teacher - you're also a role model!

9 Steps to Success

These tips can help you motivate loved ones to live the fitness lifestyle.

1. Use your knowledge of their exercise history to create a plan of action that'll focus on the positive associations they link to exercise.

2. If they lack knowledge or are misinformed, help them acquire the insight they need to make informed decisions about their health.

3. Encourage them to participate in activities they truly enjoy.

4. Emphasize that they have control over their health. Their future health isn't determined by fate, but by lifestyle.

5. Associate exercise with their personal goals. Teaching them to relate physical activity to expectations of personal benefit will help make exercise more meaningful.

6. Try to positively link their personal values with exercise.

7. Gradually introduce them to physical activity. Emphasize that they'll need to increase exercise duration and intensity slowly over time to produce continued results.

8. Be sure they acquire the behavioral skills they'll need to realize long-term success [goal setting, self-monitoring of progress, self-reinforcement and relapse planning).

9. Be a role model, not a preacher! Demonstrate by example how exercise enhances your life.

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