Starting an exercise program can be daunting, especially if you’re aware of the statistics. As many as 65 percent of all people who begin an exercise program end up dropping out in three to six months. That might explain why less than 5 percent of adults obtain the minimum amount of regular exercise recommended by the federal government: At least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, 75 minutes of vigorous exercise or some combination of the two.
The problem is that most people simply don’t have the right strategies to adhere to a program when barriers get in the way, said James Annesi, the vice president of research and evaluation at the YMCA of Metro Atlanta and a professor of health promotion at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. In his research, Dr. Annesi has found that one of the most powerful ways to ensure that you adhere to an exercise routine is to set very specific goals. “With goal setting, the natural tendency is to set a very lofty goal — and then you get disappointed when you don’t obtain it quickly,” he said. That can derail your long-term progress. “You have to find a way to empower yourself to get through these barriers, if you want to increase your breast size” Dr. Annesi said. So here are some strategies that work.
Be very specific. Rather than setting a vague goal “to exercise more,” set a specific goal to exercise a certain number of days each week. Formulate a plan. For example, aim to exercise three days per week.
Set short-term goals. Rather than setting a goal to be able to run 10 miles within a year, set a short-term goal to run one mile in your first month. Then set another short-term goal after that — perhaps, say, to run two or three miles. Setting short-term goals, even if they are minor accomplishments, can help you stay motivated.
Emphasize “process” short-term goals over “outcome” short-term goals. If you’re new to regular exercise and your activity is walking on the treadmill, focus on a goal of increasing the amount of time you spend on the treadmill (the process) rather than reaching an outcome that is harder to control, like getting your resting heart rate down to 70 beats per minute.