The kinesiologist word: Physical activity and motivation: find yours!

31 August 2017

**an article by Neuromotrix. info@neuromotrix.com**

Why don’t I do physical activity?

To stay healthy, you need to be physically active, everybody knows that! Physical activity can prevent several health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and even some cancers. Moreover, it is very effective in managing symptoms of several diseases, notably those associated with Parkinson’s disease. Scientific studies of the last decades prove it! However, they also show that 50% of the adult population is sedentary and that only 10% of those individuals will start a physical activity program in the next year. Furthermore, half of them will quit in less than six months. Why? What is it about regular physical activity that is so difficult?

Ask yourself what you told the last person that suggested you do physical activity: I don’t have the time, I am too tired, my knee hurts, my health does not allow me to do that, I am afraid to fall, it’s useless because I am already sick… Before starting something new, it is normal to see barriers. However, with motivation, these barriers can be transformed into stepping stones to a better quality of life.

Sources of motivation

OK, but where and how to find this motivation to start and keep being active? First, you need to know that sources of motivation can be categorized into two classes: extrinsic and intrinsic. The first, as its name implies, comes from factors outside a person. Extrinsic motivation is often based on a reward and/or punishment system or good/bad feelings that usually work well to start a physical activity program. You can think of people rewarding themselves with a restaurant dinner after having run 5 km or, inversely, not having dessert for not having walked 30 minutes. You can also think of people doing physical activity because they do not want to feel guilty when their doctor asks if they started doing the physical activity as suggested or someone trying to achieve a personal goal such as walking their daughter down the aisle. Finally, physical activity can be motivated by a personal need associated with a person’s health such as maintaining blood glucose below a certain level to avoid taking medication.

The second class of motivation is intrinsic; meaning that it comes from within a person. This happens when you do something simply because you enjoy it! This is usually the type of motivation that helps maintain a behavior over a long period of time. Think about your favorite hobby, you do not need a reason to do it, you do it simply because you like it. Ideally, this is what we would like you to feel about physical activity.

Your ideal formula…

So, what do you need to do? Unfortunately, there is no universal answer. You will need to explore different avenues to find the one that will transform what you perceive as barriers into opportunities to improve your quality of life. First, you can identify a personal goal that is realistic and stimulating, that will be an incentive to get started. Then, find ways to reward yourself for your efforts and accomplishments while truly investing yourself in this new behavior. Do not focus on reasons why you should not move but rather find solutions to overcome those obstacles. Finally, try different activities and choose the ones that provide you with the most enjoyment. Remember that the right exercise is the one that you do, not the one that you contemplate doing eventually! You will need to use your imagination and persevere because your level of motivation will fluctuate over time, so be creative and find new ideas in order to keep moving.

Tips from the kinesiologist

Changing a behavior is difficult for everyone. Here are a few tips that will help you get motivated.

Use practical tools:

  • Hang images and posters that encourage you to move
  • Sign a contract with yourself or a friend
  • Write down the “good” and “bad” of physical activity (be honest!)
  • Have a logbook and place it in plain view for people to see
  • Use a smartphone motivation application

Make the right choices:

  • Choose the right activity for how you feel now (it is not necessary to play hockey like you did 25 years ago!)
  • Adapt the intensity, duration, and frequency of the activity based on your capabilities
  • Favor group activities
  • Find a safe and enjoyable environment
  • Set realistic and flexible goals

Other tips:

  • Get support from family and friends
  • Consult a kinesiologist, the health professional specializing in physical activity
  • Offer yourself rewards for consistency, and share your success!

Finally, do not forget that you cannot do everything alone! People around you, your family, your friends, and health professionals can help you be in the 50% of individuals that are physically active!

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