The positive effects of exercise have been documented and reported through every media outlet available. You can probably walk up to anyone on the street and ask them the positive benefits of exercise and they can most likely list them. If everyone knows why we need to exercise, why aren’t we? The answers are most likely more complex than we think.
This article will take a look at the five stages of behavioral change as created by a psychotherapist named Prochaska. Prochaska’s model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, says that people go through cycles in developing behavior change. Each cycle has different stages. To move through the stages, a change in behavior must occur. The five stages of change are as follows:
Let’s take a look at each stage and see how the average person might be running through this model as it relates to starting an exercise program.
Precontemplation – people in this stage do not recognize that by not exercising they are negatively affecting their health. They are happy where they are and exercise is the farthest thing from their mind. Family or friends may voice concern about their health and encourage them to exercise, but it falls on deaf ears.
Contemplation – this stage is characterized by the willingness to consider taking action in the near future. Many people in this stage have found some personal link to why exercise is now needed in their life. The doctor may suggest exercise because cholesterol levels are too high, blood pressure is rising to dangerous levels, etc. The information becomes personalized to the person and this in turn allows them to consider starting an exercise program. This stage may also prompt people to start visiting fitness facilities to gather information about where they would like to exercise and give them a idea of what is available to them.
Preparation – clients in the preparation phase recognize that adding exercise is a positive change and are working to make that happen. Clients will seek out information and begin an exercise program. There are many sedentary people who start off doing way too much for their current fitness level. Guidance from a fitness professional in appropriate goal setting and creation of an exercise program is an absolute must. Proper goal setting will allow the client to progress without getting injured. All or nothing thinking can be a detriment here. Remember that something is always better than nothing.
Sedentary people should start an exercise program slowly and build into more exercise. Exercising too much too soon can lead to injury, frustration, and drop-out. Remember that exercise is a new habit in your busy lifestyle that you will need to practice for it become routine. Remember, in order to make change possible you must establish a goal which works for your situation
Action – Action means just that. After establishing program guidelines (times per week, minutes per sessions, etc.) this is where the hard work is put in. Motivation is extremely high and you are encouraged to be starting your program. Always keep your goal within reach and spirits high. There will be days when you will want to talk yourself out of exercise.
Critical to the success of the action stage is a strong support system. Your support system can include family and friends who will support your efforts in a positive way. Make sure to have a conversation with them so they understand their role in assisting you with your desire to become healthy and fit. If your family and friends do not understand your reason to exercise, they may try sabotage your efforts.
If you need to be challenged for your fitness program, workout with a friend who has a similar goal or seek out a qualified personal trainer.
Maintenance – Maintenance is probably the hardest stage to stay in. Old behaviors have a way of creeping up on you and getting in the way of reaching your goals and putting a damper on all of the hard work and momentum you built. Maintenance is designed to allow and plan for a “slip”. Create different workout plans that deal with the perfect day, the typical day, and the day from hell. Each workout will be a little different but remember the overall goal is down the road, not right in front of you.
These stages allow for movement between each stage, forward and backward. It is quite common for people to go back and forth between stages before they feel successful in their efforts.
Dave Radin, CSCS