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Value-Added Physical Activity

Your job as a fitness professional is to understand what activities or exercise programs will work best for each of your clients.

"PEOPLE WHO SEEM able to fit exercise into their lives really find value in it," your coworker remarks. "It's not just one more obligation squeezed into a busy life; physical activity has a positive value for them.

"When you first meet most clients, they seem so committed. But pretty soon it's too much, and after a few weeks or months, they're gone. I wonder if they would be more successful if they saw exercise as immediately beneficial, or as recreation and fun, rather than one more thing they have to do?"

Make exercise a rewarding experience

It doesn't take a degree in rocket science (or even exercise science!) to understand that people are more likely to continue performing activities that they find rewarding. Your job as a fitness professional is to understand what activities or exercise programs will work best for each of your clients.

As you discuss clients' health concerns and fitness goals, explore their reasons for coming to you. What do they say is motivating them at the present moment to improve their exercise habits? Obviously, your recommendations will want to address these factors.

Ask your clients about prior experiences with exercise programs. When have they been most successful? Least successful? When have they most enjoyed (or least hated) exercise? Take some time to really explore these questions. If you let clients talk about themselves and their exercise histories a bit, you may uncover important information that can help them be successful now.

What are some common qualities of their successful experiences? Ask clients to identify these elements with you. You may find that they mention such things as exercising with a friend, a fun class, or a sport or activity they used to enjoy. Observe and listen carefully as clients describe these positive experiences.

How can these positive elements be realistically incorporated into their new program? Work with your clients to come up with a plan that looks enticing.

Emotional rewards

As you discuss exercise program goals, ask clients about stress. Since feeling stressed and out of control is the No. 1 reason people quit exercising, it is good to address this topic early. Are clients aware that exercise can reduce feelings of stress and increase energy levels?

Ask clients how they feel after a workout. Have they ever experienced an "exercise high," feelings of relaxation or improved mood following exercise? Do they sleep better when they are exercising regularly?

People often report that some of their aches and pains disappear when they become more active. (Of course, you will want to encourage your clients to check with their healthcare providers about these aches and pains first, to be sure they are getting any recommended treatment.) Clients who find an association between exercise and pain relief may be especially motivated to stick to their exercise programs.

Sometimes you may sense that clients see their exercise programs as one more obligation. Clients who are overscheduled and energy-depleted, and view exercise as one more significant drain on their scarce resources, face immense difficulty because, for them, exercise will require too much energy. Is there a way to help these clients reframe the exercise experience? Can physical activity become a way to recharge their batteries, something that enhances self-renewal? When clients find themselves feeling stressed, you want them to see exercise not as a cause for more stress, but as an antidote to stress and a way to prevent stress-related illness. FM


Brehm, B.A. Successful Fitness Motivation Strategies. Champaign, Ill.: Human Kinetics, 2004.

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