Helping Clients Become More Active. Part 2

You’ve probably heard all the excuses by now: I don’t have enough time; I’m too tired; I have a knee problem; the dog ate my membership card. Ask questions and use your good listening skills to find out what your clients perceive to be the barriers that keep them from sticking to an exercise program. If they have exercised in the past, what caused them to stop?

Help clients come up with solutions for each of their identified major barriers.Try to get them to give you the answers, rather than telling them what to do. Clients who do their own problem solving come up with more realistic solutions and feel more invested in the process, and then more committed to their exercise programs.

There is one barrier, however, that you can help prevent: injury. Be sure your clients are starting slowly and progressing gradually. Be sure the exercise program will not aggravate old injuries or cause new ones.

Build skills and confidence

Once your clients have made the decision to embark on an exercise program, you can increase their chance of success by helping them toacquire the skills they will need to stick to it. Help them prepare for exercise by planning how exercise will fit into their day. How will they manage their time? What will they do when problems arise at home or at work?

Clients who will be using a fitness center will appreciate your guidance about fitting in. Give them adequate information about the machines they will use, or the classes they will take. Don’t underestimate how intimidating a fitness center can seem.

Encourage clients to build social support. Is there a friend who might want to exercise with them?

Do your clients feel “different” from most exercisers? Tell them about otherpeople who have successfully established an exercise program, and introduce them, if possible. Is there a group or class that is geared toward their needs? Many fitness centers offer special programs, such as activities for older adults or new moms.

Reinforce the idea that regular physical activity is a lifelong proposition, not something you do for a few months to “get in shape.” Help clients anticipate those times when exercise won’t fit into their lives, and make plans for getting back into the exercise routine. Encourage clients to plan and prepare for becoming active again after life has temporarily interrupted their exercise routines.

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