Friday, February 19, 2010

The Processes of Change

Have you been struggling to get on an exercise program for years, never quite able to make it a habit for longer than a few weeks at a time? You're not alone -- and there is hope!

Many people jump into a full exercise program with good intentions but it ends up being too much, too fast and the whole thing just fizzling out. We're not used to hearing people say to ease into a workout program. We've been told 'no pain, no gain'.

We have a different philosophy at OnTrack Fitness. We work with new clients through what is called the 5 Stages of Motivational Readiness for Change (click to read more and to find out what stage you're in) and work them through the processes of change. This isn't something we created, this is a proven method of behavior change. These processes were originally used for smokers, we now use them for people wanting to become more physically active, like yourself.

We briefly discussed the processes of change in the previous post, 5 Stages of Change. Once you've determined which stage you're in, it's time to implement strategies & techniques to modify your behavior to become a fitter, healthier you.

They're divided into 2 categories:

Cognitive Strategies:
*Increase knowledge - Read & think about physical activity

*Being aware of risks - Learn about how/why inactivity is very unhealthy

*Caring about consequences to others - Recognize how your inactivity affects your family, friends & co-workers

*Comprehending benefits - Understand the personal benefits of being physically active

*Increasing healthy opportunities - Increase your awareness of opportunities to be more physically active

Behavioral Strategies:
* Substituting alternatives - Participate in physical activities when you're tired, stressed, or unlikely to want to be physically active

*Enlisting social support - Find a family member, friend or co-worker who's willing & able to provide support for being active

*Reward yourself - Praise & reward yourself for being physically active

* Committing yourself - Make promises, plans and commitments to be active

*Remind yourself - Set up reminders to be active (ex: keep comfortable shoes in the car and office to be ready to be used any time)

These processes describe how people change, and depending on what stage of change you're in will determine what process you will you start with. If you find you're in stage 1 or 2, start working on the suggestions we give in the cognitive processes. If you're in stage 3, 4 or 5, you'll want to put more of your focus on the behavioral processes.

If a smoker can become a non smoker, you can become healthier. Remember, just like a smoker may take several attempts to quit, and may always have an urge to smoke, you might cycle through the stages of change several times before making physical activity a true habit. Even people in stage 5 may fall back a little now and then. The key, though, is never give up.

Information from: Motivating People to Be Physically Acitve