A frequent barrier to exercise participation I see as an exercise physiologist is a lack of motivation to exercise. If this is you, don’t stress, you are not alone. As an exercise physiologist, I routinely provide clients with exercise programs designed to achieve a particular goal. The ability to reach the goal hinges on the client’s motivation to complete the program. Some clients I meet are eager to complete their program and do really well achieving their goals, but the vast majority find it difficult to engage.

So how can I help a client increase their motivation if they are struggling with engagement? I’d like to share a story to introduce the concept of motivation and describe what it is.

I attended my six-monthly hygiene appointment the other day and was bombarded with education on why I should floss more. The hygienist was kind and informative as she told me my current flossing routine was not up to par. She even provided some healthy fear when she told me the gum around my left-sided molars is mildly inflamed. She provided strategies to assist me in flossing more frequently and even gave me a tool to make it easier. But I am probably not going to floss more, why?

To understand, we need to talk about the different sources of motivation and how we can evoke it in ourselves and the people we influence.

Simply put, motivation is the ‘what’ behind our behaviour. When you place a jumper on a frosty morning, you’re motivated to stay warm. When you prepare your lunch, you’re motivated to appease your hunger. When you go to bed early you’re motivated to feel fresh the following day. All of these motives enable us to survive and be as comfortable as possible. Flossing serves a purpose, and I am sure some people floss on a regular basis without any conscious thought of effort, but for many, it is an activity we do not complete. This is often because the repercussion of not engaging in this behaviour is not felt immediately. 

So, hygienists tell us to do better. They inform us how simple it is and notify us of the risks involved when we do not complete the task. Unfortunately, this form of motivation is extrinsic, meaning the ‘what’ driving the behaviour is an external reward. If we follow the direction of the hygienist, we are rewarded with praise at our follow-up appointment. If we continue to avoid the task we find ourselves educated once more at our next review.

Extrinsic motivation is a powerful force and often results in immediate changes in behaviour; however, the change is often short-lived, and we normally do revert back to old habits once the extrinsic reward is removed. So, what can we do? How can I save my gums from the possibility of gingivitis in the long term? 

To do this, I need a different source of motivation, a force that is enduring and often results in pleasure and reward simply from completing the task itself. This is called intrinsic motivation. So how do I make a task like flossing pleasurable? That is a great question and worthy of exploration, as answering this question could help you engage in the exercise program you’ve been putting off for the last six months or stick to the diet you’ve been on for the past twelve. To discover this, tune in to our next blog post.

When You’re Struggling with Motivation

Let’s recap from where we left off. You’ve been given an exercise program, but you just can’t quite find the motivation to do it. You know that if you do it you will receive the extrinsic motivator of praise when you next see your therapist, but you still cannot commit to the task. So how can you transform extrinsic motivation into intrinsic?

Step 1. 

Take a moment to think about the healthy behaviour and how your life would change if you were to do it. Take some time and make notes. You may even write down what would happen if you did not complete the healthy behaviour.

Step 2.

Think about your history with healthy behaviour. Have you previously done what is being asked of you now? Was your life better or worse because of it?

Step 3. 

Imagine yourself in 5 years’ time if you were to complete the healthy behaviour. Think about what other things you’d be capable of if you were to complete the desired behaviour.

Step 4.

Write down some goals. When creating goals, make them personal and meaningful to you. See if you can link in the healthy behaviour to the goal achievement.

Step 5.

Enlist support. Changing habits is hard, so why not make it a little bit easier and embrace the support of a friend?

Working through steps 1 to 5 will help you build your own why, this will remove you from being controlled by another person’s directions. 

So how does this link into my toothflossing scenario? 

If I were to consider my future without flossing, I might see more dental visits and possible issues with gum disease later in life. This could negatively affect my finances and my gum appearance could change. 

I would realise my history of flossing was pleasant, and that I felt secure about my gum health between dental appointments. This decreased my overall sense of anxiety. I could imagine myself in five years’ time attending appointments and being praised for my good work and my healthy smile. I could set a goal to floss three times a week and create a system to record this. I could employ my partner as my accountability buddy and ask him to also floss with me.

The point of this exercise is not the answers that are created along the way, the point is that I am the source of the answers. So on the question of how to get motivated to exercise, the answer can be found within yourself. When motivation comes from within it is much more powerful and the behaviour that flows from it lasts much longer than an external force.

The Power of Exercise in Managing Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder that affects millions of individuals worldwide. While there is no cure for PD, research has shown that exercise can significantly assist in managing its symptoms and improving quality of life as the disease progresses. In this blog, we will explore the remarkable benefits of exercise for individuals with Parkinson’s disease and how an exercise routine can contribute to their overall well-being.

1. Improved Motor Function

One of the primary advantages of exercise in managing Parkinson’s disease is its positive impact on motor function. Regular physical activity, such as aerobic exercise, strength training, and balance exercises, has been proven to enhance motor performance, gait, and overall mobility in individuals with PD. This helps people live with Parkinson’s disease with greater ease and more independence by making everyday movements easier.

2. Neuroprotective Effects 

Exercise has also demonstrated neuroprotective effects, meaning regular engagement in exercise can slow down the progression of Parkinson’s disease. It is believed that this is due to physical activity promoting the release of neurotrophic factors, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which supports the survival and growth of neurons. A study published in the journal Brain found that high-intensity exercise increased the levels of BDNF in the brain, contributing to improved brain neuroplasticity and slowing down the disease progression.

3. Symptom Management

Exercise plays a crucial role in managing the various symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. Regular physical activity can help reduce rigidity, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), and tremors. Moreover, exercises that focus on flexibility and range of motion can alleviate muscle stiffness and improve posture. A randomized controlled trial published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation demonstrated that individuals with PD who engaged in a specific exercise program experienced significant improvements in motor symptoms and functional abilities compared to those who did not participate in the program.

4. Psychological Well-being

In addition to its physical benefits, exercise also has a profound impact on the psychological well-being of individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Depression and anxiety are common in PD patients due to the challenges they face. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce these symptoms and improve mood by boosting endorphin levels and reducing stress. Furthermore, participating in exercise programs provides social interaction and a sense of community, which can help combat feelings of isolation. Engaging in group exercises or joining support groups can provide a valuable support network, enabling individuals with PD to connect with others who understand their experiences.

Exercise is a powerful tool in the management of Parkinson’s disease. It offers benefits ranging from improved motor function and neuroprotection to symptom management and enhanced psychological well-being. By incorporating regular Parkinson exercises into their daily routine, individuals with Parkinson’s disease can take an active role in managing their condition and improving their overall quality of life.

Resources:

Tang, L., Fang, Y. and Yin, J., 2019. The effects of exercise interventions on Parkinson’s disease: a Bayesian network meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Neuroscience, 70, pp.47-54

Ahmad, S.O., Longhurst, J., Stiles, D., Downard, L. and Martin, S., 2023. A meta-analysis of exercise intervention and the effect on Parkinson’s Disease symptoms. Neuroscience Letters, 801, p.137162.

Hirsch, M.A., Iyer, S.S. and Sanjak, M., 2016. Exercise-induced neuroplasticity in human Parkinson’s disease: what is the evidence telling us?. Parkinsonism & related disorders, 22, pp.S78-S81.

Chen, K., Tan, Y., Lu, Y., Wu, J., Liu, X. and Zhao, Y., 2020. Effect of exercise on quality of life in Parkinson’s disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Parkinson’s Disease, 2020.

The Power of Exercise: Managing Motor Neuron Disease

Motor Neuron Disease (MND), a group of neurodegenerative disorders affecting the nerve cells responsible for controlling muscle movement, poses significant challenges for individuals diagnosed with it. However, emerging research and anecdotal evidence suggest that regular exercise can play a crucial role in managing the symptoms and improving the overall quality of life for people with MND. In this blog, we explore how exercising assists with managing Motor Neuron Disease and highlight its potential benefits.

Understanding Motor Neuron Disease

Motor Neuron Disease encompasses a range of disorders, including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Primary Lateral Sclerosis (PLS), and Progressive Muscular Atrophy (PMA). These conditions lead to the progressive degeneration of motor neurone cells, resulting in muscle weakness, loss of coordination, and, ultimately, difficulties with mobility, breathing, and swallowing.

How to Manage Motor Neuron Disease: The Role of Exercise

Exercise plays a vital role when it comes to treating motor neurone disease. While exercise cannot halt or reverse the progression of motor neurone disease (MND), it can significantly improve physical functioning, delay muscle wasting, and enhance overall well-being. Engaging in regular physical activity offers several benefits that can assist in managing the symptoms and slowing the progression of motor neuron diseases.

Maintaining Muscle Strength and Function 

Exercise, including resistance training and stretching exercises, can help preserve muscle strength and prevent muscle wasting. By engaging in regular physical activity, individuals with MND can maintain functional independence for a longer period. Furthermore, exercise improves muscle endurance and coordination, making daily activities more manageable.

Enhancing Respiratory Function 

Respiratory muscle weakness is a common symptom of MND. However, aerobic exercises and respiratory training can strengthen the respiratory muscles, improve lung capacity, and enhance breathing efficiency. These exercises, combined with breathing techniques, can help individuals with MND manage respiratory symptoms, increase tolerance to physical exertion, and potentially reduce the risk of respiratory complications.

Promoting Psychological Well-being 

MND not only affects physical functioning but also takes a toll on mental health. Regular exercise has been shown to alleviate anxiety, depression, and stress, which are commonly associated with chronic illnesses. Engaging in physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins, the “feel-good” hormones, improving mood and promoting a positive outlook on life. Additionally, exercise can enhance self-esteem and provide a sense of control and accomplishment.

Incorporating exercise into the management plan for Motor Neuron Disease can offer numerous benefits. It can help individuals with MND maintain muscle strength and function, improve respiratory capacity, and boost psychological well-being. While each person’s exercise program should be tailored to their abilities and limitations, it is important to consult with healthcare professionals experienced in MND to ensure safe and effective exercise practices. By embracing physical activity, individuals with MND can improve their overall quality of life and enhance their ability to manage the disease.

Resources:

Pinto, A., Alves, M., Nogueira, A., Evangelista, T., Carvalho, L., & de Carvalho, M. (2018). Exercise for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (6), CD012928. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD012928.pub2

Lunetta, C., Lizio, A., Sansone, V., Cellotto, N. M., Maestri, E., Bettinelli, M., … & Tremolizzo, L. (2016). Muscle rehabilitation: its effect on patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. BioMed research international, 2016. doi: 10.1155/2016/4016874

Sanjak, M., Masterman, D., Smith, R., & Taylor, A. (2020). The Role of Exercise in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: A Scoping Review. Frontiers in Neurology, 11, 661. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2020.00661

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