How many exercise dropouts find themselves sitting on the couch, TV remote in hand, wondering what the heck happened to all those good intentions? Although there is no cure for exercise drop out or a pill we can take to ensure habitual workouts, there are many theories that can help explain why some can stick to a program and others would rather soak in a hot bubble bath (with a glass of wine in one hand and box of chocolates in the other).
The following list explores 12 of the most influential theories that have come out of the study of exercise psychology. Although these theories offer insights into exercise behavior, they may not speak to everyone. Perhaps the key to understanding why we struggle with the exercise habit lies in all of following concepts…
1. Stages of Change Theory
This theory, formerly known as the Transtheoretical Model of Change, was created by James Prochaska and Carlo Di Clemente in 1983 and suggests people go through 6 stages of change. From not thinking about change to fully adopting a new behavior, this theory has been used in a wide variety of contexts including addiction, exercise adoption, and health care. It also allows for movement back and forth this continuum of change potentially falling back into the precontemplation stage after thinking we have made exercise a habit.
Stage one, pre-contemplation, occurs when we aren’t even considering a change (even if others think we should). Stage two, contemplation, occurs when we start thinking of change and is followed by the third stage, preparation. This stage usually finds the changer getting ready to take the next step into action, the fourth stage. Action is the stage where exercise begins; smoking ceases, or nail biting stops. Maintenance, the fifth stage, occurs when we have committed to the change for over 6 months when, finally, the new behavior becomes second nature leading to the final stage, termination.