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By Nawaz Modi Singhania  

Exercise adherence is one of the biggest problem most people face. People dodge an exercise programme or drop it for one of two main reasons: Either they're unclear on their own goals & motivating factors, or they give in to hurdles that most regular exercisers are able to ride. These two are interrelated: it's easier to give in to barriers are when you don't quite comprehend what the potential benefits are. To understand the same for starters, personal reflection is important. Planning & organization are the key factors to overcome these barriers. If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail!

Today's article will focus on understanding some of these external & internal blocks, & strategies to overcome them.

External blocks refer to obstacles such as having to commute long distances to & from work, having multiple responsibilities such as a career, keeping house, managing kids, or being a single-parent, & so on, or keeping long work hours at work.

Internal blocks are basically a congregation of feelings, perceptions, notions & thoughts that people have about exercise & themselves.

External Blocks

This refers to each person's environment & current life conditions. These blocks work from the outside in. These situations pose real time & convenience restrictions to people's ability to commit & stick to an exercise regimen.

Lower income groups face more of these barriers than people of high-income groups do. Lower income groups tend to feel that fitness centres are too highly priced, & inconveniently situated, whereas those belonging to a high-income bracket do not tend to share these concerns. Culture has a huge influence on exercise & adherence to the same. As western culture continues to infiltrate Indian culture, this situation is improving. Exercise adherence can also vary depending on age. For instance, barriers for adults ranging from 60- 78 tend to be injury & ill health, whereas responsibilities towards children, lack of time & low motivation tend to be the main factors for adults from 20- 40.

Internal Blocks

Internal barriers greatly influence novices. These people have often never exercised before, but are thinking about it. They may have mildly dabbled with exercise in some small way. They find a train of excuses not to exercise regularly. Some of their barriers include self-consciousness with regard to body size, low self-esteem, intimidation & embarrassment.

  • Self-consciousness

    This is a classic obstacle to embarking on a fitness programme. The paranoia is that others will evaluate one's body in a class or gym setting. This concern about visibility & judgement by others is often valid. Many people, particularly women indicate that they would like to exercise in a setting with people who they consider non-judgmental.

  • Low self-esteem

    Self-esteem can be defined as the degree to which an individual feels positive or negative about themselves. Each of us has a perception of ourselves, which greatly reflects upon our level of physical activity.

  • Intimidation & Embarrassment

    These are powerful forces, holding individuals back. Research shows that people would be more open to joining fitness centres if they were less intimidated by those who "already belonged". It's important to take a beginners class initially, & then work one's way up.

  • Stick-to-itiveness

    Once you've overcome your blocks to this stage, the new level kicks into action. Today we'll focus on two of these blocks when it comes to sticking it out.

  • Result Obsession

    Benefits, such as getting rid of fat, are important for getting people interested in & starting an exercise programme. But to make exercise a part of one's lifestyle, one has to their shift focus. One has to experience & perceive exercise as a positive, uplifting experience, with numerous benefits to offer such as increased body tone & bone density, increased self-esteem, improved confidence & sleep, increased cardiovascular efficiency, among others. Otherwise, this is bound to be a short stint, & not a lifetime commitment.

    This failure can easily lead to boredom, & the reluctance to make the time for exercise.

  • Lack of time

    This is often the number one reason cited for staying away from an exercise programme.

    While time is often a legitimate barrier, it often is used to mask other concerns such as low self-esteem & intimidation.

Overcoming your blocks

Acute awareness of the above-mentioned problems, & changing our perception of both exercise, & ourselves is the key to overcoming our blocks. Let's discuss some practical ways to help people change their mind about various exercise blocks.

To overcome intimidation, embarrassment & self-consciousness, here are ways to quickly get past these negative feelings.

  • Take on some one-on-one guidance initially from your fitness centre. Meet the staff individually & speak to them freely about your concerns, problem areas, health status, etc. This way the staff will tune in to your specific needs & be able to give you more appropriate personal attention.

  • From time to time, review your exercise goals, & keep a track of your progress, whether it be fat loss & inch loss, increased muscle tone, or anything else, to help you stay motivated & on track.

  • Discuss with your trainer the one or two reasons that might keep you from exercising as frequently as you set out to do. Anticipating & discussing these problems will help you come up with strategies of preventing the same.

  • Take on the centres free Orientation programmes & informative lectures. Use these opportunities to freely discuss goal getting, overcoming hurdles, & personal experiences of exercise.

  • Think about both your short & long-term goals, but don't dwell on them! Enjoy the experience of exercise itself. Feel good about committing to a programme, & making the time for the same.

  • Overload, to avoid plateuing. From time to time, once you have adapted to the exercise programme, you will need to overload in order to see continuous progress. This could be done by increasing the intensity or duration of the workout, or by changing the type of activity performed.

  • Boredom is the number one killer of any exercise routine. You can easily avoid it by taking on different class formats, or by using different exercise equipment. Not only does the novelty engage the mind & have the time pass quickly, but you'll take a leap on the progress scale.

  • Avoid facilities with mirrors just about everywhere! While the mirror is an important tool in checking one's body alignment & form, don't highlight your own physical anxiety by constantly glaring into it. Use it sparingly.

Time Management

The research on the time barrier is clear: Most people who exercise regularly are as busy, & often busier, than those who are physically inactive.

Once you discover the value of physical exercise, it's less likely that you will use the "I don't have the time" excuse for not exercising.

As the saying goes, if you don't make time for exercise, then you'll have to make time for illness!>

Just think of the amount of time that you spend each day by being physically inactive. How much time do you spend daily watching television? Or being fixated in front of your computer monitor? Aren't we starting to lead sedentary lifestyles? What are we consciously doing to make up for this?

Integrate exercise with other basic requirements in life. Many people view exercise as separate from other aspects in life such as social, intellectual, spiritual, & religious needs. We should learn to take a more holistic approach, where all our needs, physical too, are balanced & interwoven with the next. For instance, married couples can use exercise sessions to meet their physical requirements, while simultaneously bonding with their spouse. Mind-body classes such as Pilates can help you explore your spiritual side while providing a great workout.

"True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind, & exercise of the body; the two are united."

-Alexander Von Humbolt

Break through your barriers, & make exercise a lifetime commitment.