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How do I stick with my exercise program?

Scheduling & Setting Goals

How a routine helps you stick with exercise. When you make exercise part of your routine, it becomes just something else you do and not a decision you have to make each day. Having a set time also helps some people who tend to mentally punish themselves all day as they brood over whether they will exercise. If you have a set time, you can count on following through on it and free your mind.

How to fit in exercise. Consider your preferences and what will work for you. Are you more likely to exercise early in the morning, during lunch, after work, or in the evening? Schedule a time and place that's convenient for you. Try exercising at the same time every day. Put it on your calendar so you'll remember. Treat it just as you would any other appointment, such as a dentist appointment - don't cancel it.


Set Goals and Keep Track of Your Progress

Having goals is a great way to stay motivated.

How setting goals and tracking help you stick with exercise. Setting goals allows you to see yourself doing your activity and that mental preparation is key to becoming an active person. Continually having new milestones can also keep you moving when you might feel unwilling to be active. Plus, keeping track of your progress concretely shows your accomplishments. Some people get so caught up in pushing themselves that they actually want to quit because they expect so much from themselves. An exercise log keeps you from forgetting how far you've come.

How to set goals. Select some short-term and long-term goals. Perhaps your short-term goal in the first week is to walk for 10 minutes three times a week. By your 12th week, your goal might be to walk 35 minutes 5 days a week and to take part in a 5-kilometer fund-raising walk in your community.

Your longer-term goals might be to lose 10 pounds and to reduce your total cholesterol by 20 mg/dL.

To help you achieve your goals, write them down and keep track of your progress using an exercise diary.

Reward Yourself

There is nothing that makes you want to keep doing what you are doing more than a little positive reinforcement.

How rewards help you stick with your exercise. Changing any habit - including being inactive - is hard. It takes energy to stick with it and mental persistence too. Planning to reward yourself can help you stay motivated. It's also a way to remember to be kind to yourself and not too hard on yourself - those are the mental attitudes that lead to good health.

How to reward yourself. As you achieve each of your short- and long-term exercise goals, reward yourself. Purchase a book you've been wanting or treat yourself to a tape or CD you would enjoy. Don't think your rewards always have to be items that cost money. You can motivate yourself with some positive self-talk. Phrases such as "I can do this" and "I'm taking control of my actions and making my life healthier" can help keep you focused on your purpose for exercising in the first place. It may also help you feel stronger and more energized just to say to yourself, "I am a winner!" Don't reward yourself with food, which could derail your efforts to lead a healthier lifestyle.