Sticking with an exercise program can be one of the most challenging aspects of a medical weight loss plan. But see how in addition to helping with weight control, more energy and improved cardiovascular fitness are just some of the rewards you can reap from regular exercise.

Welcome to our fourth and final week of the Craving Change Challenge! This week we’re taking our exercise intentions and turning them into reality—for the long haul. Are you ready to make exercise a habit?

Sticking with an exercise program can be one of the most challenging aspects of a medical weight loss plan. The benefits of exercising regularly, however, make it more than worth it. In addition to helping with weight control, more energy and improved cardiovascular fitness are just some of the rewards you can reap from regular exercise.

But how do you do it? If you haven’t exercised regularly over your lifetime, starting a fitness program can be daunting. This week, we’ll focus on an easy, four-step plan to get you moving:

  1. Step One: Get clearance. It goes without saying that you need to make sure you’re ready for exercise and understand which type of exercise is best for you. Consult your physician to find out: If you have issues like joint pain or heart disease you may need to modify your activities.
  2. Step Two: Make a plan. The next step is to decide which exercise you’re prepared to do.  Make a list of activities you’ve enjoyed doing in the past, and that you currently have the equipment, ability, and go-ahead from your doctor to try. Maybe it’s a dance class at the gym or that boxing DVD you got for your birthday. Perhaps it’s meeting a friend at the high school track for some brisk walking. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s something you’re willing to do for at least 30 minutes (the recommended minimum time), and that it is over and beyond what you’re doing now (walking the dog every day like you always do is great, but try to start doing more in addition to this!)
  3. Step Three: Schedule it in. Now you need to make exercise a part of your schedule and treat it like any other important appointment or obligation in your day. No excuses! Make sure you plan it for a time when you won’t be stressed or tempted to skip—right after your evening commute is inviting disaster if you get snarled in traffic. Plan ahead for your exercise like you would anything else that’s a priority. You wouldn’t take your kids to their pediatrician appointments without their immunization records, right? So don’t head for the gym without workout essentials like proper shoes and water. Set yourself up for success by thinking about what you’ll need and devising a specific plan to make sure you get it.
  4. Step Four: Reflect on it. After you’ve finished your workout for the day, spend some time reflecting on it in your journal. How did it make you feel? Is it something you’d like to do every day, or maybe just once a week? If you don’t want to do it every day, what other exercises could you try instead? What could you do to make this activity more enjoyable or successful for you?

Your mini-challenges for Week 4:

Day 1: If you already have clearance from your physician to get started, perform steps two and three above.
Days 2-7: Do it—get out and be active! Afterward, perform step 4 above, as well as answer the daily challenge questions.
Day 7: By Day 7, you’ve exercised for at least 30 minutes 6 days in a row. Congratulations! On your final day, your challenge is about creating a path forward—how will you continue to fit in exercise at least 4 to 6 times per week?

Your additional mini-challenge for today is to read what you wrote in your journal for the past 6 days. You’ll probably see the progress you’ve already made. Spend a few minutes thinking about the successes and challenges you’ve had over the past week. Now, answer the following question:

I commit to exercising ____ days per week for ____ minutes per day.  

I need the following equipment to accomplish this goal:     

I need the following support from friends and family to accomplish this goal:

Finally, sign your commitment and share it with the people who can help you. Schedule future exercise times in your calendar and keep moving!

Good luck and congratulations on a successful Craving Change Challenge!