Sunday, December 15, 2013

How to Make a Healthy Lifestyle Plan – Tips for Success

Tips for Making a Successful Exercise Plan
Many people would agree that a healthy lifestyle reaps many physical and emotional benefits. And many folks resolve to become healthier for various reasons. Unfortunately, 30-70% of people who begin a new exercise program stop within six months. Developing and writing down a clear plan may increase your chances for success.

This article goes into detail to help you get started with an exercise plan. A printable sheet at the bottom of this article allows you to print and write your own personal fitness plan, including the who, what, when, where, why, and how of what you wish to accomplish.

Who...

  • should you see before creating a plan? (If starting or changing an exercise/diet program, check with your healthcare provider for specific tips appropriate for your needs and current fitness level. Readers may wish to read tips for talking with one's doctor. If you are signing up to join a gym or see a personal trainer, set up an appointment to learn how to safely use equipment, exercises that will target certain areas, and more.)
  • will benefit if you live a healthy lifestyle? (Will you benefit? Will others benefit? Name them.)
  • motivates you? (Readers may wish to read about internal and external motivational factors. You may wish to create some sort of reward system as you achieve each goal.)
  • is willing to serve as an accountability partner & what specifically would you like that person to say/do and not say/do? (This person might be a family member, mentor, friend, colleague, etc. Someone who particularly wants to see you achieve your goals may be a particularly good accountability partner. If you specify what you would like the person to do or not do, there will be less of a chance for hurt feelings or misunderstandings. You might write letters to yourself to open at regular intervals or set up email alerts to yourself if you feel hesitant to ask anyone to help you at this point.)
What...
  • is your current diet? (Keeping a food diary can help you to find hidden calories, common cheat foods, and times when you lean toward unhealthy snacking. It is hard to correct something if you do not know what the problems are.)
  • barriers stand in your way? (Lack of money? Readers may wish to read about tips for getting a free gym membership and ideas for an inexpensive walking exercise program. Lack of time? Perhaps you could fit in three or four 15-minute exercise segments or wake up 30 minutes earlier each day. Anticipating barriers can help you to determine what you plan to do to keep those negatives from standing in the way of improving your health.)
  • are you willing to change in your diet? (The U.S.D.A. has a ChooseMyPlate web site with tips regarding healthy diet choices, including cultural options. You might try starting with something very simple, such as cutting out one type of empty calorie with a plan to replace that item with something that is nutritious and appealing to you. Ensure that you have healthy options readily available. If the people in your household are willing to eat healthier, this can help to decrease the number of unhealthy foods in the home. Fad diets and eating plans that leave out entire food groups do not tend to have positive long-term results and may lead to negative health issues later.)
  • is your current exercise program? (If you are unsure whether or not you are sedentary, you might wish to wear a pedometer for a few days to determine how many steps you walk each day. Approximately 10,000 steps/day is typically considered an active lifestyle. I found pedometers at Dollar Tree for $1 – this does not need to be an expensive investment.)
  • are you willing to change about your exercise program? (Make a list of exercises that appeal to you. Cross training can be very helpful to train various muscles in different ways and also to help decrease boredom. The CDC has recommendations for cardiovascular and resistance exercises for children, adults, and those over the age of 65. The exercises do not have to be elaborate, extreme, or expensive.)
  • supplies do you need? (Ensure that you have safe footwear and appropriate clothing. Compare the cost of gym memberships in your area. Do you need equipment at home or for classes? Do you need transportation to an exercise area?)
When...
  • are you going to make these changes? (After getting the okay from your healthcare provider, consider why you are waiting if you plan to start making changes some time in the future. If you find yourself waiting for a holiday to be over or for a stressful situation to resolve, keep in mind that holidays and successful situations tend to reappear at regular intervals. A healthier routine might help one to enjoy the holidays more and to be able to better cope with stress.)
  • does your schedule allow time to exercise? (Where is the down time in your schedule? Do you need to wake up earlier? Stay up later? Exercise on your lunch break? Exercise after dropping the kids off at school? Exercising when it is most convenient tends to lead to increased success.)
  • are you most likely to exercise on a regular basis? (Are you a morning person? A night owl? Do you get your second wind in the middle of the day? Splitting up the exercise into smaller segments might help if you cannot commit to a longer time frame. Regularly exercising for 15 minutes a day is generally better than not exercising at all.)
  • are the hours that the gym/mall/field/playground/park, etc. is open? (Unless you want to walk around the perimeter of the area, it is a good idea to check hours of operation. Look for holiday hour changes, child care hours, and any other factors that might make or break your exercise routine at that location.)

 Where...
  • do you prefer to exercise? (Take an honest look at previous habits and see if you notice trends where you tend to be more or less likely to exercise.)
  • at home could you exercise? (Do you have a designated space or can you create one at home?)
  • outside could you exercise? (If your yard is small, you might consider community outdoor tracks, parks, and public sidewalks. You might check with local law enforcement to see if you should avoid any areas due to safety concerns.)
  • inside, but not at home, could you exercise? (Consider a gym, mall, senior center, or other areas.)
 
Why...
  • do you want to change your current lifestyle habits? (Writing this down will help remind you how important this goal is to you on those days when moving toward a healthy lifestyle becomes difficult. You might try including a picture, poem, or drawing that will remind you of why you are wanting to commit to becoming more fit.)
How...
  • will your accomplish your goals? (Include a start date, date to assess your progress, and a date by which you would like to accomplish your goals. Consider specific dietary/exercise changes, a plan to control stress, etc. Create a general, overall goal and then break it down into how to plan to accomplish that goal with short-term measurable goals. Avoid making all of your goals related to weight. A healthy lifestyle is measured by more than a scale. An example of a general goal might be: I wish to lower my need for diabetes medicine by 10% within 12 weeks. Examples of specific short term goals might be: I will attend a 1-hour cardio exercise class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and will lift weights for 20 minutes and walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I will swim laps for 45 minutes on Saturdays and attend a 45-minute yoga class on Sundays.)
  • will you assess your progress? (If you created short-term measurable goals, determine when you will measure the results. As you assess your progress, give yourself permission to tweak things. Some people may make goals so easy that they are sure to succeed, but they may not feel like they have accomplished much to improve their health. Others may create goals that are quite lofty but perhaps do not allow enough time to accomplish the criteria. As you assess your progress at regular intervals, you may find that the plan is ineffective. Now you know what does not work. Look at how you might change your plan to see what will work in the future. As you accomplish your goals, give yourself permission to celebrate and enjoy the success!)
 
Additional articles:
Find more of Katrena's articles at the Fit Tips 4 Life site map.

Below is the printable chart to assist you in developing your own personalized healthy lifestyle plan. I hope you find this resource to be helpful.
Printable Individual Fitness Plan for Healthier Living

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