Social Support and Long-Term Maintenance

"We rise by lifting others."

                              - Robert Ingersoll

Social support is an important ingredient in the behaviour change process!

You are more likely to be successful if your family, friends, and co-workers are supportive than if they are opposed to, or even indifferent to your efforts toward changes.

Partners

Your spouse or partner is likely to be one of the most significant people in your life. Try to include them in your behaviour change plan.

Children

Look for opportunities to play with your children or kids in your family. This opportunity allows you time to chat with them and to know more about them.

Friends

Some people find it easier to make exercise changes with another person. Arrange to take your early morning walk with a neighbour or meet a friend and walk to lunch.

ACE Participants

Joining a group, and being committed to your weekly classes, may be a very strong form of social support. So, have fun and get to know those in the the class with you.

Role Model

We are influenced by people we admire. Be realistic in choosing a physically active person and use your role model as a motivation for staying active.

Tips to lifelong physical activity

To continue to experience benefits from physical activity, you need to continue to maintain your good physical activity habits. Being mindful of the healthy lifestyle you have worked to establish and want to maintain is part of ensuring that you will continue to live in a healthy and balanced way.

Here are some tips to keep it going!

Continue to look at exercise differently

Take a dog for a walk, bike to the store, take five-minute stretch breaks. If you don't count something as exercise unless it is at least 45 minutes, you are missing some of the best opportunities to stay active.

Think small

Why bother walking around the block if you don't have time to do all 4 miles? 

Set an agenda

Try challenging yourself with a learning or performance agenda. Set a goal, such as increasing the speed, the duration or other aspect of your activity or think about training for a race!

Get off the beaten path

Have you ever tried snowboarding, bowling, swing dancing, paddle-boarding, or yoga? Exercising at a different time of day? Physical activity isn't boring, but how you participate in it can be.

Be aware of your body

If you're new to exercise, stay aware of the sensations that could signal injury or overdoing it. As you become more experienced, associative strategies, such as focusing on your breath or concentrating on the movements of your body.

Get an accountability partner

Find a friend, mentor or coach to keep you honest. You can either exercise with your partner, or simply check in with him or her to report your progress.

Plan to stay active

Don't decide in the moment if you can make the choice beforehand. Plan to park farther from the office and put your walking shoes in the car the night before. Plane to take a new yoga class next week.

Face your fitness foes

Does vacation throw your exercising schedule out of whack? Do injuries sideline you? Fitness foes can be beaten once they've been identified. You can change your vacation style, set work limits, get guidance for injury-free activity, find new challenges, or face your fears with counselling support.

Go Group

Even if you are introverted, the presence of others in your exercise environment can be motivating. We pick up other people's energy. 

Choose places and times to exercise where there will be other people who are actively involved in exercise.

Use a script to prevent any slips from becoming lapses

We tell ourselves things like, "skipping this one little walk won't matter all that much". Be prepared with an excuse for this excuse. Use images of past successful experiences to remind yourself of how good exercise makes you feel. Or repeat a simple phrase to yourself, such as: "Every little bit makes a big difference" If you use planning, flexibility and imagination, you will be successful.

Pursue activities that you enjoy! For a feeling of accomplishment, pursue an activity you know you can do. When you succeed, you feel competent and your motivation increases. If you enjoy learning, try a new activity or build new skills. Whatever benefits you seek - companionship, a feeling of well-being, heart health - match them with a physical activity that can provide these benefits.

Above all, make it convenient to be active. Many activities are accessible right from your front door (i.e., walking, gardening, and cycling). Take every opportunity to be active and if you can't afford large chunks of time, try spacing a few short bouts throughout the day. Get yourself into a routine and the benefits will start accumulating, right on cue!

" Life is a journey, not a destination."

                                                                -Ralph Waldo Emerson

© 2017 by the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary