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Beginning an Exercise Regimen

By Lawrence Feinstein, PhD

Decision-making regarding exercise

Benefits of Exercise:

  • burn more calories

  • increase basal (resting) metabolism

  • stress reduction, alternate coping technique without using food

  • fun and enjoyment (feeling of movement, enjoy your accomplishment - leaner body)

  • sense of self-control, self-mastery

  • more "in touch" with your physical body

  • learn how to shape your body

Costs of Exercise:

  • pain (though, only temporary)

  • possible boredom

  • time away from other activities and responsibilities

  • doing something only for yourself may raise guilt

  • no immediate gains (takes time)

Ways to begin an exercise regimen:

  1. Find an activity that you enjoy (ask the group if you don't have one)

  2. GOALS - set immediate, specific, easily achieved goals that translate into action that bring reward; for example, start with 5 minutes of easy walking each morning this week (later you will increase this); do not set long-term goals (like running a marathon) until later

  3. PLANS - plan today what you will do tomorrow, and when you will do it; be specific

  4. REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS - set realistic expectations that serve you; let go of unrealistic, self-sabotaging dreams; your immediate expectation is not to burn calories with your exercise, but to make "space" in your daily routine for exercise

  5. MONITORING and FEEDBACK - keep a log or journal of your activity; for example, keep a sheet of graph paper on your refrigerator door or bathroom wall and check off your daily activity; this provides a sure sense of accomplishment

  6. COPING:  Develop ways to cope with the costs of exercise such as planning, cognitive skills, or exercising with someone.  As an example of a cognitive technique, ask yourself, "What's more difficult to deal with:  the occasional difficulty and pain of daily gentle, moderate exercise, or the pain of living daily over-weight?"

Ways to sabotage yourself and make sure you will never continue exercising:

  • Create a long-term unattainable goal such as exercising hard 1 hour everyday so you can see results in a week because you should be able to, and anything less is not worth it

  • Start exercising 1 hour each day doing difficult aerobics, weight lifting, or running

  • When you don’t meet your unrealistic goal, bargain with yourself that you deserve a treat

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