Help identify clients' barriers to activity, and use the information to inspire action.
Your years of experience and training have prepared you to design the best exercise plans. You know how to get results; it’s just not always easy to inspire clients in a way that truly motivates them. Why is it that Charles starts strong, only to burn out after three sessions? Is there a reason Melanie can commit to exercise only if the weather’s good? By evaluating what your clients perceive as impediments to exercise, you can customize a truly effective program.
The Barriers to Being Active Quiz from Promoting Physical Activity: A Guide for Community Action (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1999) helps you determine what competencies and skills clients may need in order to overcome obstacles such as illness, family emergencies, inclement weather, vacations and holidays. Armed with this knowledge, you can then teach people how to maintain their commitment in spite of these hurdles.
Include the following as part of your routine assessment.
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Once you’ve garnered the information you need about what’s keeping your client inactive, it’s time to implement a plan. Use the following tips to establish momentum.
Lack of Time. Encourage your client to dedicate 10 minutes to walking during her lunch hour, or to park farther away while she runs daily errands. As confidence grows, add on 5-minute segments.
Social Influence. Use the concept of modeling to inspire a client to exercise. Instead of focusing on the people in his life who aren’t active, ask about a friend or family member who does choose to exercise, and use that person as a model.
Lack of Energy. Tell your client to start an activity even if she feels tired, with the understanding that she can quit if she truly does not have the get-up-and-go. Many people don’t realize how energizing exercise can be.
Lack of Willpower. Use self-monitoring as a tool to help your client be accountable and realize his true potential. One way to do this is to ask the client to keep a journal of the dates and times activity takes place. Offer positive reinforcement for his efforts.
Fear of Injury. Provide a safe setting for clients to practice activity for short periods of time, and offer detailed instruction. Eventually they will gain confidence in their own abilities and will be less fearful.
Lack of Skill. Give mini-samples of exercises for clients to try. Repeat movements as often as possible until a certain level of mastery is reached.
Lack of Resources. Point out viable alternatives the client may not have considered. For example, if lack of equipment is one complaint, teach exercises that utilize body weight and common household items.
Are your clients obese, disabled or just starting to exercise after years of sedentary living? We want to hear how you are motivating, challenging and retaining clients on a long-term basis. In 200 words or less, detail the specifics of your program and your client(s), and provide your name and contact information. If your success story is compelling and unique, we may use it in a future issue or on the Inspire the World to Fitness® section of the website.
Mail: Sandy Todd Webster
10455 Pacific Center Court
San Diego, CA 92121-4339
Fax: (858) 535-8234