Merck Manual

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Motivation for Starting an Exercise Program

Motivation for Starting an Exercise Program

People who have not been active may find it hard to begin an exercise program and even harder to maintain one.

People may want to determine a baseline fitness level such as how much they weigh, how long it takes to walk one mile (1.6 kilometers), how far they can stretch, and how many push-ups they can do (although even people who cannot do push-ups can start an exercise program). This baseline evaluation may be easier to do with a trainer.

People then need to determine their goals, whether the goal is getting in shape enough to walk easily, do distance running, or something in between. The choice of activity may depend on the goal.

People should consider what they enjoy as they select activities. Some people love exercise classes because their classmates provide them with encouragement and motivation. Other people may feel a bit frightened in a class environment because they are concerned about looking foolish if they do not know exactly what to do. Some people may prefer individual work or working directly with a personal trainer to help provide motivation and professional supervision.

People may choose to join a gym or purchase equipment to use at home. Many types of exercise require very little equipment, but people may need a pair of shoes that are designed for the specific activity and nonrestrictive clothing.

People may find that varying the type of exercise they do helps keep exercise from becoming dull. Variation in the type of exercise can also help to avoid minor injuries due to repetitive actions.

Many people find that monitoring their progress toward goals helps keep them motivated to exercise.