2012-03-02 / Columnists

Rockaway Walks Fitness Column

Exercise Psychology And You
Commentary By Steven McCartney, IPO, HSW, MS

Exercise psychology can be defined as the study of human behavior and experiences that relate to exercise and physical activity settings. Getting started and exercise adherence are important for sustaining regular participation in exercise activities. Reasons why we experience lapse or drop out of exercise programs are mental readiness, exercise prescription (being overly restrictive, too challenging for beginners, participation in activities that does not promote self-responsibility), difficulty in changing habits and injury. More common exercise goals consist of muscle toning, body sculpting, weight loss, and cardiovascular fitness. Less common trends are mood enhancement, stress reduction, social interaction, and experiencing flow (state of peak performance; physical, technical and mental training), total immersion in the activity. The goals in exercise psychology are to describe, explain, predict, and intervene in mood changes associated with exercise that are both desirable and undesirable.

Let’s review what is exercise? Exercise is large muscle activity, involves repetitive body movements that are planned, structured, and purposeful. Also, intended to enhance physical fitness, well-being, and your health (review The Wave article “Exercise to Improve Flexibility, Strength and Endurance”).

Six known exercise psychology strategies for enhancing exercise adherence are (1) Behavior Modification Approaches, which consist of your prompts (verbal, physical, or symbolic cues are used to initiate behaviors) and contracts

(expectations, goals, responsibilities, behaviors, contingencies, consequences). (2) Reinforcement Approaches – charting your attendance and participation, rewards for attendance, participation, and feedback. (3) Cognitive Behavioral Approaches – your goal setting (flexible, set by individual, and time based). (4) Decision Making Approaches involve you, the exerciser, in the decisions prior to beginning your exercise programs and decision balance sheet. (5) Social Support Approaches – your family and friends, buddy system and increased group identity. The sixth method for enhancing adherence is Intrinsic Approaches which focus on you increasing your fun and enjoyment, focus on the experience, the process and engagement in purposeful and meaningful activities (review The Wave article “Leisure Time and Recreation Perceptions and Goal Setting Blueprint for the New Year”).

Three theories associated with exercise behaviors are: (1) Planned Behavior (Ajzen and Maiman) which associates exercise with an individual’s intentions, subjective norms, attitudes, and perceptions of ability to perform behavior. (2) Social Cognitive (Bandura), which is the most consistent in predicting exercise, depends on personal, behavioral, and environmental factors. Also, Self-Efficacy, meaning situation specific confidence, support and belief in one’s ability to successfully perform an activity. Thirdly, the Transtheoretical Model (Pochaska, Diclemente, and Norcross) has six stages in exercise behaviors:

Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance, and Termination. Remember, matching the exercise behavior and intervention to one’s stage of change (present fitness level) is important for increasing exercise adherence and reducing attrition (or burnout).

Exercise adoption (getting started) and adherence are a major issue facing the field of kinesiology (the study of the mechanics of body movements), sports, and exercise psychology. It’s important to stay creative and develop your exercise programs that are individualized to accommodate your various needs. Psychological Skill Training or Mental Skill Training (like positive Self Talk) are important in sports and exercise and affect your psychological factors that affect one’s individual performance. Remember sports and exercise affect psychological development and health and well being. Everyone can improve one’s consistency and reduce negative thought associated with sports, exercise and staying physically active. “Let’s focus on what you can do.” If you’re trying to embrace excellence in psychology let’s go with your dreams (stay excited), focus on your successes (free will, change, and lifelong learning), be your own best friend, biggest fan and greatest coach (stay positive), and create your own reality (keep things in perspective). Don’t forget to have fun! Start with critical thinking skills by making two lists. The first list will answer the question “Why don’t I exercise?” and the second list “Why do I like to exercise?” Finally act on your opportunities (review article “Form a Support Team”).

This article goes out to “Rockaway Walks” participants and Sponsors: The Wave newspaper, Councilman James Sanders’ Office, St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, Joseph Addabbo Health Center, NYC Parks Department, NYC Department of Environmental Protection, VESID, York College (USS CUNY), Stop n Shop, Office Max, Modell’s Sporting Good and Healthy Lifestyle Changes Inc. for longevity of the “Rockaway Walks” Program. For questions or concerns you may contact me at steven_ mccartney@walkpro grams.com.

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