Improve your adherence to an exercise program

Let’s face it, it’s tough to stick with an exercise program. The reasons for low adherence and thus an epidemic of a chronic sedentary U.S. population are numerous. A recent study included researchers investigating cognitive reasons why adherence to exercise programs is low. It was reported that self-regulation behavior can be depleted throughout the day and can negatively affect the decisions associated with exercise intensity and duration (1). Self regulation as it pertains to exercise includes the following: overcoming exercise barriers (time, money, equipment, etc.), creating and implementing your exercise plan and schedule, and managing the effort and discomfort (intensity) of the exercise bout. How do you overcome this depletion of self regulation? Here are some tips:

  • Work out when you are fresh mentally (mornings)


  • Include exercises in your program that will positively influence your mental well being overall (ex. Yoga)


  • Plan ahead


  • Seek help with planning if you don’t have time/motivation. Personal training is a great way to avoid having to plan and implement a training program yourself!
    • This is also a great way to avoid getting bored with a program. Trainers are great with providing variety to an exercise program. Plus it will hold you accountable and increase your motivation, and result with increased adherence!


  • Here are some other ways to decrease boredom with a particular program –include a variety of exercises that span different areas such as cardiovascular, resistance, flexibility, agility, balance and coordination. Also, think about different modes of exercise (Swimming, biking, hiking, etc.). Try different intensities and/or interval training as well (2).



1. Martin Ginis KA, Bray SR. Application of the limited strength model of self-regulation to understanding exercise effort, planning and adherence. Psychology and Health 2004;25 (10):1147-1160.

2. American College of Sports Medicine. In: Thompson WR, Gordon NF, Pescatello LS, Eighth ed. ACSM’s guidelines for testing and prescription. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010


3 responses to this post.

  1. I agree about working out first thing in the morning, not only have you gotten it out of the way for the day, but there’s something about working up a sweat and showering that makes me feel good. Doing this 4 times a week, I have already become more fit and healthy in my daily life in just a couple of weeks. My only problem now is eating healthier. Any suggestions for a very picky eater?


  2. I would say that the main thing is to make small changes at first, that way you will adhere to a change in the diet better. Eating healthy is pretty self explanatory, it’s basically lots of fruits a veggies, limit saturated and trans fats and sugar. Also portion control is a must. A registered dietition is also a good reference if you want more specific ideas about eating healthy. If you go to the main office at the rec center they can let you know where to go!


    • Thanks for the fast response! I love fruit, and can easily eat that. It’s my vegetables that I’m not fond of, and what’s so bad is that since we don’t eat them, we don’t fix them at my house and now our kids are not being exposed. I would like to change this while they’re still both under the age of 7.


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