How to inspire patients into exercise therapy commitment

By: Yolanda Smith – MedicalSearch Writer
08 January, 2015

There is little doubt about the importance of physical activity in achieving and maintaining optimal health.

Health professionals and the public alike are aware of the strong research to support exercise therapy for therapeutic gain. However, it is more difficult to put into practice as physical activity takes time and effort, both of which require commitment.

How can health professionals help inspire patients to begin exercise therapy and stay committed to achieving results?

Emphasise the benefits

Initially, it is important to ensure that patients truly understand the benefits of physical activity and its impact on health outcomes, as this can help boost motivation.

Many diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are strongly related to physical exercise and can be greatly improved by exercise therapy, even leading to the complete reversal of Type 2 Diabetes, paired with dietary changes.

Create achievable goals

Help patients to break down the eventual goal into baby steps that they can complete and continue with via SMART goals:

  • Specific: Be clear about the goal and how it will help
  • Measurable: Make an actual endpoint to each goal that can be checked off
  • Agreed Upon: Decide on the goal together with the patient
  • Realistic: The goal should be achievable for the patient
  • Time: Deadlines motivate us to work harder so set a timeframe for the goal to be completed

Read more about SMART goal setting

Help put a plan in place

Each patient has a unique daily routine, and how they will fit exercise therapy into their life will be different.

Take a good look at the goals and work with the patient to show them how they can fit into their life with minimal effort. It will be different for each person but you can help everyone to find time to fit in exercise therapy.

Find a support network

It can be difficult for health professionals to keep in touch with patients as often as needed to provide adequate ongoing support. Knowing this, we should aim to find a support network that can help patients with their exercise therapy goals.

Perhaps there is a local exercise group that meets regularly in the patient's neighbourhood, or family and friends who will help with support.

Check back in

It is important to check back in with patients occasionally to ask how they are going with the goals and congratulate them on successes, or work through any hurdles they may have experienced.

Always bring exercise therapy back to the purpose: the therapeutic benefits. Encourage them with what they have accomplished so far and continue to inspire them to go even further.