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Too many people who begin exercising fall out of the habit within the first six months—even after a health crisis. After a heart surgery, for example, nearly everyone will pay attention to instructions about diet and exercise, but not for long. Once you begin to feel normal, it’s easy to drift into your old habits.

Community builds the self-esteem that fuels fitness dedication

Creating a “new normal” can require a community. Less than 20 percent of women age 40 and up regularly do strength-training, according to an April 2010 study published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. But when researchers polled women who had participated in a group strength-training program over three months, nearly 80 percent were still working out regularly—on average, for more than a year.

Socializing and cheerleading is fun, but as I’ve seen in Ornish Lifestyle Medicine the benefits of a good community go deeper. You’ll find both your cheerleaders and your problem-solvers. Friendly rivalry can be a boost, too. Community builds the self-esteem that fuels dedication, by reinforcing the five big insights you need to stay on track.

1. Feeling the Benefits Will Motivate You

People feel better when they exercise, but it may take months before you notice you’re happier, sleeping better, and have more energy in your day. The strength-training study found that experiencing the connection between exercise and well-being keeps you coming back, Supportive peers and trainers will get you through the early stage when the first signs of better health may not be consistent or obvious.

2. Committing to a Fitness Routine Improves Your Health Habits

Opting into health tends to be a package deal. In the strength-training study, women who had kept up their work-outs had better eating habits and were generally more active than women who had stopped.

3.Your Supporters will Help You Pinpoint the Obstacles

People often get frustrated and forget why they lose steam.  Your supporters at home and in a program should steer you to pinpoint obstacles like pain (See Ornish Living article, Muscle Soreness: How to Know If It’s Good, Too Severe or Just Right? or baffling equipment (See Ornish Living article Choosing the Right Home Exercise Equipment) and work around them.

4.Your Trainer and Team Mates will Help you Measure Your Progress

A good trainer will give you a program that allows you to succeed early on. You’ll see measurable gains, becoming more confident as you go. People quit when they feel they’re failing. Some arrive feeling inadequate; others with inflated expectations. Your trainer and teammates can be your reality check.

5.Your Community Will Help You See the Big Picture

Think about how exercise fits into your identity—who you are and what you want. You won’t keep coming just on “doctor’s orders.” Let’s say you and your wife are looking forward to a retirement that includes winters in Aspen. Working out today means you can be skiing at 70. Maybe you’re a widow in your late 70s, living in a home you love with stairs. Strength and balance building exercises will prevent a fall and keep you independent.   A thoughtful trainer, exercise buddies, and friends and family can remind you why you’re at the gym.

In Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, Ninety percent of our participants are exercising at the end of the first year. We also regularly see their fitness double in as little as 12 weeks. Keep it up and you’ll feel better—and feel better about yourself. That self-esteem, research shows,  is the key to maintaining your exercise plan.

What are the first step you’re going to take to engage with a fitness community?


Contributed by

Phil Hardesty
Exercise Physiologist

Have a healthy, happy and fit week!!

Better Health Begins With You...

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