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Research Paper

HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY Factors Needed in order to follow an Exercise Program

Exercise Program

I know that everybody would agree to this statement: Exercise is always good for the body. As the cliche would tell us that not only does regular exercise make one look better, it can make one feel better too. It can improve sleep; reduce anxiety, stress and depression; bolster one’s self-esteem; and increase feelings of control. But despite all this good news, many people still aren't making exercise a part of their daily lives. For some, it just seems like too much trouble. Others are sure their stiff joints would prevent them from exercising effectively. Some people actually make the effort to begin an exercise program, but give it up in a short time due to frustration, inconvenience or physical discomfort.

For many of these people, the problem may be that they haven't established the right factors for an exercise program. Primary factors to be considered in an exercise program to be effective and long-lasting includes being comfortable with it and must be enjoyable. Moreover, it must match one’s goals, personality and preferences. In short, it must fit one’s lifestyle.

Planning an Exercise Program

Identify Your Fitness Goals

Before one should start a fitness program, the personal needs should be analyzed first, consider the limitations, physical activity likes and dislikes, and daily schedule. One’s specific goal may be to achieve (or maintain) healthy levels of body fat, cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and endurance, or flexibility and mobility.

Design Your Program

In designing your exercise program, one should ask: What type of fitness program is best suited to my needs? One should take note that the amount and type of exercise required to yield beneficial results vary with the age and physical condition of the exerciser. For instance, men over age 40 and women over age 50 should consult their physicians before beginning any fitness program.

Design Your Program

But one’s age and knowledgeable about the body’s physical condition is only the beginning. One’s personality and preferences are the other keys to maintaining one’s motivation to exercise. So, one should consider these factors when choosing an exercise program:

1. Goals. The author of Body Moves: The Psychology of Exercise, James Gavin, Ph.D., believes that people need to find a purpose for exercise beyond accommodating their medical needs. One must try to answer such questions as: What can exercise offer you? Do you want to lose weight, firm up, look better in your clothes? If so, choose an aerobic activity that will help you burn extra calories. If you need to feel more in control, choose an eight-week class, for example, and stick with it! If your goal is to unwind and release tension at the end of the day, any number of exercise options might fill the bill.

2. Environment. The place is another important factor to consider in an exercise program. Where you exercise can sometimes be as important as what you choose to do. So try to answer these questions: Are you an indoors or outdoors person? Do you enjoy a brisk walk on a winter's day or a cool early-morning stroll in the summer? Or is the steady comfort of an enclosed mall, an indoor swimming pool or your living room more your cup of tea? Whatever your favorite environment, try to keep some flexibility in your routine. You'll need an alternative if the pool closes for repair, the weather turns bad or you go away on vacation.

3. Personality. In his research Dr. Gavin found that different forms of exercise make different demands and offer different opportunities. Walking, for example, offers more spontaneity and opportunity for socializing than swimming laps in a pool. A short game of golf requires more concentration than walking around the mall; a large-class atmosphere provides motivation for some but makes others feel awkward and self-conscious. Here, one should analyze these questions: Do you enjoy the routine and structure of following a familiar format such as that offered by a class or exercise videotape, or do you need more variety? Do you prefer time alone or enjoy the social aspects of exercising with others? Do you like concentrating your attention on what you are doing or do you prefer an exercise like walking or swimming that allows your mind to wander? Is it easier for you to incorporate exercise into your daily tasks, such as walking to the store to get a paper, rather than doing exercise for itself, such as riding a stationary bicycle? Knowing yourself best, choose the exercise that will fit your personality as well as your body...


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