Strategize Your Way to Fitness Success

Are you keeping your new year fitness resolutions? No matter how determined you are to exercise, lose weight and get fit, the key to success depends on having the right strategies to overcome obstacles, says Ryan Rhodes, University of Victoria physical education associate professor and an expert in the field of behavioural medicine.

Rhodes and Ronald Plotnikoff at the University of Alberta Centre for Active Living and Faculty of Physical Education, followed the physical activity involvement of more than 1,000 Canadians for a year, checking in at intervals to assess their progress.

“For beginners, the difference came down to the individual’s level of confidence in their abilities to use strategies to overcome obstacles and work through initial bad mood, muscle soreness and fatigue, says Rhodes.

Successful strategies included: substituting physical activity for a typical sedentary pastime (such as television viewing); enlisting a work out partner; putting exercise prompts around the home and workplace; and providing personal rewards for sticking to the exercise regime.

By the end of the study period, 30 per cent successfully stuck with their exercise plans, but a similar number, 31 per cent, gave up after their initial burst of enthusiasm.

Fitness achievers—those able to deal with obstacles such as boredom and bad weather—used different patterns to maintain an exercise program. Rhodes noted that the most successful were those willing to make the time for exercise by scheduling and planning their routines and those able go it alone when workout partners were not available.

“Also the people who succeeded were often the ones who believed that their exercise was making a difference not only to themselves but also to those around them, such as being a role model for children or work colleagues,” says Rhodes.

The professors based their research on the premise that people progress through stages of readiness in making a lifestyle physical activity change including: information gathering (consciousness raising); self assessment; dramatic relief from experiencing results; and re-evaluation of the new commitment and its effects on other people.

In addition to achievers and non-achievers, the study sample identified nine per cent “no goers” (people who had no intention of exercising), 14 per cent “backsliders” (those who successfully launched their exercise regime but couldn’t maintain it), and 16 per cent “slow goers” (people who still planned to exercise but hadn’t quite got around to it).

“But it’s never too late to get going on fitness,” says Rhodes, a runner and regular dog walker. “Good luck with those resolutions!”

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Media contacts

Ryan Rhodes (UVic Physical Education) at 250-721-8384 or

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