Helping Clients Become More Active. Part 1

Many people have difficulty increasing their physical activity levels. No matter what you say and do, some people just can’tchange their lives to accommodate more physical activity. Changing any kind of behavior involves planning and preparation, and changing activity patterns is no exception. We are creatures of habit, and we rely on our routine to get through the day;the force of habit is very strong.

When people decide to increase their activity levels, they generally go through various stages of planning and preparation. You can help clients work through the early stages of change and become more active in ways that increase their likelihood of success.When you work with people who are in the process of making a decision to become more active, your job is a lot bigger than simply designing an exercise program:Your clients are more likely to succeed if you also help them prepare psychologically.

Making a decision to change: Weighing the pros…

People generally decide to change their behavior when some- thing causes them to feel a need to change, and then by weighing what they perceive to be the pros and cons of an issue. Clients who hesitateto start an exercise program are often still unconvinced that the benefits of exercising outweigh the difficulties they expect to encounter. Your input at this stage can help people understand the benefits of regular physical activity, so that they can muster the motivation they need to decide to become more active.

Educate these clients about exercise benefits in every way possible. Ask clients questions to find out what they already know about exercise benefits. What would they like to achieve by exercising? What health problems run in their family? What health risks are they hoping to reduce? Simple, attractive handouts and articles that you think address clients’ health and fitness concerns might help. If clients are concerned about a health problem, spell out how exercise can help, if it can, and what kind of exercise is best. Listen with empathy and understanding as you ask them about the importance of their health. Ask questions to lead them to conclude that their health is important, and a top priority. Help them conclude that exercise must be a priority as well.

At this point, you may be tempted to promise clients a winning lottery ticket if they begin to exercise. Unrealistic expectations regarding exercise lead to disappointment and exercise drop out. Be especially careful not to promise quick and easy weight loss. Focus on benefits they are most likely to see: feeling less stressed, sleeping better and feeling more energetic are a few. If weight loss is the goal, encourage them to think lifelong fitness rather than quick weight loss. And don’t be afraid to point out the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle.

…And cons

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