Stage 4: Taking Action

At this stage, you've been busy the last few months planning and becoming physically active on a regular basis. You have made important decisions and are working to make changes in your life. Way to go! A large part of your plan is in action and you are making physical activity an important part of your life.

By including regular physical activity in your schedule each week, you've shown a commitment to yourself and your health. Are you enjoying the rewards of added energy and a newfound sense of well-being? You've taken old habits and replaced them with healthy actions. The benefits you identified earlier when considering "pros and cons" probably outweigh the barriers. You can be proud of your success-you're making progress! The following steps will support you in reaching your activity goals and will keep you on the right track.

Create balance in your life
Any change is difficult and recently you've added regular physical activity into your life. In doing that, you've taken time away from other things in your busy schedule. Your energy level is increasing but you can't be a super being and do everything. Creating balance in your life is important.

Review the activities in your busy schedule. Protecting your commitment to become physically active is important. Here are some helpful tips.

  • Be realistic. Gradually adding moderate-intensity physical activity to your life will give you added energy. Don't overdo. You put yourself at risk for injury if you increase too much, too fast.
  • Select a menu approach to adding additional activities. Think about activities that you have wanted to do in the past and include them in future plans. Vary your routine to help keep boredom away. Have fun.
  • Replace bad thoughts with good ones. When you hear yourself saying, "I should be better (or faster) at this by now," counter back by saying, "I have made some real improvements and am right where I need to be."

Support yourself in thoughts and action
Surround yourself with people who support your new, active lifestyle. Not all of your family members, friends, or co-workers may want you to succeed in becoming more active. You will develop new habits that might not include them and that may be a problem. Remember the stages of change. Your path will be different from theirs. Visualize your response to a non-supportive friend who discourages you from wanting to be something different-more energetic and healthy. Be assertive in your response.

Some people find supportive messages surrounding them very helpful. Leave encouraging notes to yourself or "to-do lists" at home, in the car or at the office. A message in the car that reminds you to part farther away from the grocery store will give you an opportunity to walk a few extra minutes.

Can you find ways to make it easier to add activity into your day? Leaving an extra pair of walking shoes at the office or in your car would be one way. Your dog only has to walk around the block once to believe you will walk him every day at that same time. How can you say no to your favorite pet, even if you grumble the entire time? You'll soon find yourself looking forward to the time…you really will. What are two supportive actions you can take to maintain or enhance your current level of physical activity?

Pat on the back
Give yourself a big pat on the back for becoming physically active. You are making great strides in adding health benefits and strength to your life. Build in rewards to maintain your motivation. These can be setting goals for yourself or something you can get your hands on, such as a new pair of walking shoes. What would motivate you?

Review long-term vision
You may want to contract with yourself to reach certain goals. What are your long-range (one year or longer) goals for physical activity? List three short-term (three to six months) goals that will help you reach your long-range goal. Be specific.

Utilize your support network
Maintain a buddy system. Knowing you can ask a co-worker or family member for support is helpful. Mentors are important in the work setting. They help you make the right decisions and show you the ropes.

Do you know someone who would make a good mentor or buddy in maintaining or increasing your current activity patterns? What type of support and feedback do you need from your friends or mentor to be successful?

Plan for setbacks
Think about times when you will be tempted not to be active (e.g., added demands of work and family, the flu, a blizzard, or out-of-town visitors). List for yourself any events that have gotten in the way so far.

Accept that these lapses will happen. It does not mean that you have failed or will not get back into your regular habit. Be aware that during the first six months of any behavior change, you are at risk of reverting to old habits. Lapses are a normal part of the change process. If you plan and prepare for events that are likely to happen, you can prepare to hurdle over them as well. You've heard the term, "jump back in the saddle again." If you do lapse, just start right back where you left off. You'll thank yourself afterwards.

Information Provided by the Centers for Disease Control