Change Clients’ Exercise Mindset

Do you struggle to motivate clients to exercise, or, more importantly, exercise consistently? You’re not alone. Our able-bodied clients can list tons of reasons why they can’t exercise, such as they don’t have time, hate to sweat, don’t experience endorphins when they exercise (they probably just haven’t found an exercise they enjoy), and don’t have the energy.

If we accept these excuses at face value, we are doing our clients a disservice. We must find creative ways to help clients find the motivation to achieve the results they want without simply telling them they “have to” exercise. The first step is to help them figure out their internal motivation to exercise—how will it benefit their lives? Clients’ motivators can include the following:

  • getting in shape so they can run around with their kids without getting winded;
  • improving measures of health such as their cholesterol or glucose levels; and
  • having an outlet to manage their stress and clear their mind.

But sometimes those motivators alone aren’t enough, which is when dietitians can provide the following two tips on how to use the power of mindset to keep their momentum going.

1. Switch words. Encourage clients to consider and emphasize that they “get to exercise” instead of thinking they “have to exercise.” This positive spin on working out is a simple change that I’ve found makes all the difference. Exercise is a privilege that those who are sick, disabled, or injured don’t have—they can’t take advantage of what their body was designed to do. Ask clients to consider a friend or family member who’s unable to exercise, a thought that may be motivating.

2. View exercise as a luxury. Thinking that exercise is a treat will help clients appreciate their body and what it’s capable of doing. This mindset can be particularly helpful when clients are pushing hard, becoming tired, and want to give up. However, reminding themselves that exercise is an indulgence that not everyone can experience may help them push themselves an extra five or 10 minutes, which can get them closer to reaching their health goals and taking their fitness to the next level.

Dietitians can start using this approach today to help motivate clients to exercise, keep exercising, and meet goals they didn’t think they could.

In what other ways have you worked with clients to change their mindset? What has your experience been like?

— Melissa Mitri, MS, RDN, is a proud mom of two boys. She’s the owner of Melissa Mitri Nutrition LLC, a private practice where she helps moms lose weight and feel confident in their own skin, without restrictive diets. Melissa writes and speaks regularly on the topics of mindful and intuitive eating, weight loss, and sustainable habit change. You can find Melissa on Instagram @mommy.nutritionist or on Facebook @MelissaMitriNutrition.

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