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How Does Psychology Influence Exercise Compliance and How to Improve It 

How can exercise compliance be improved?

How You Can Start Having Better Exercise Adherence

First, we must define compliance and adherence because both concepts are equally important for the client.

What is Exercise Compliance vs Adherence

Compliance is the act of complying with demand or proposal, while adherence refers to the ability to be consistent with the task. (Milroy, O’Neil, 2000) Both aspects are heavily associated with motivation level, whether extrinsic or intrinsic. 

Adherence is based on the belief that participating in exercise activities will result in better physical fitness and health. It ceases when a certain health-related objective or desired body image has been reached. The level of perceived health also influences adherence to exercise. The third personal factor of adherence is self-motivation and environmental factors like family support, perceived availability of time, and access to facilities modify adherence, however environmental factors can mean constraints, too. 

How to Improve Exercise Compliance

Milroy and O’Neil view compliance as an external construct, which can also bring intrinsic rewards. In many cases, compliance to exercise is a strategy to improve the physical and health status of the client, which is related to some authority (e.g. the trainer or medical professionals.) 

Research results suggest that only 23% of clients persevere with long-term exercise, which means three out of four clients will sooner or later quit and leave the training relationship altogether. To improve the exercise compliance of clients it is vital to understand the constraints working against it. The constraints do not have to be real, they might be just perceived, but the results are the same. Based on the work of Milroy and O’Neil, it might be useful to understand the most typical constraints to help our client manage. 

Counteracting factors to compliance need to be understood. The most important strategy may be to set specific goals, but apart from that, both communication and motivation also play significant roles. Because we have discussed motivation and instructions previously, now we can proceed with goal setting as an influencing factor in exercise compliance. 

Setting Goals

The first important step is to identify the constraints, concerns, or problems of the client. After we have found the source of the problems, the next step is to narrow it from vague to clear and specific topics. We must decide on objectives that are realistic (do not forget about client participation in the decision-making process). Goals should be supported by effective procedures, e. g. when is a certain goal achieved, which strategies can be used to assist the road to attaining the desired objectives. Goals should be measurable because it is much easier to provide authentic feedback this way. We should also implement the complete evaluation of the goals and offer a follow-up to the clientele. 

Compliance does not only have cognitive components, but also very strong emotional factors. People have a natural tendency to need the safety of their comfort zone. If they feel some threat, either real or perceived, which undermines this security, then defensive mechanisms start to work and we have a mountain to climb to achieve exercise compliance. 

How to Become a Certified Personal Trainer

If you are ready to add exercise psychology to your fitness career, the NESTA Personal Fitness Trainer Course is a great addition.

Check out what it takes to start a career in personal fitness training. NESTA is your most affordable and fastest way to become a highly qualified personal trainer.

There is always something exciting about earning a new training or coaching certification and applying that new knowledge of how you train your clients. This also helps you hit the reset button.

NESTA and Spencer Institute coaching programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.

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