As fitness professionals, we often encounter the challenge of motivating inactive individuals to start and maintain a regular exercise regimen. A recent study, “The Effectiveness of an Autonomy-Based Exercise Training on Intrinsic Motivation, Physical Activity Intention, and Health-Related Fitness of Sedentary Students in Middle School” by Behrouz Sfandyari et al., sheds light on effective strategies to address this challenge. This article aims to translate the findings of this study into practical advice and a periodised programme that fitness professionals can use.
Key Findings of the Study
The study focused on the impact of autonomy-based exercise training on intrinsic motivation and physical activity intention among sedentary middle school students. It found that when individuals are given the freedom to choose their exercise activities, their intrinsic motivation and intention to engage in physical activity significantly increase. However, it’s important to note that while autonomy improved motivation and intention, it did not necessarily lead to immediate improvements in physical fitness components such as flexibility or endurance.
Implementing Autonomy-Based Exercises
Autonomy-based exercises are those where the individual has the freedom to choose the type of activity, its intensity, duration, and even the order of exercises. Here are some examples:
- Choice of Activity: Offer a range of activities like walking, cycling, swimming, or yoga. Let the individual choose what they enjoy the most.
- Self-Paced Exercise: Encourage activities like jogging or cycling, where the individual can set their own pace.
- Flexible Routine: Instead of a rigid exercise schedule, allow them to choose the days and times that work best for them.
- Variety in Workouts: Provide a selection of different exercises for each muscle group and let them pick their preferred exercises.
A Periodised Programme Based on the Study
A periodised programme is designed to progressively increase the exercise load to avoid plateaus and overtraining. Here’s a basic 12-week programme inspired by the study’s findings:
Weeks 1-4: Introduction Phase
- Focus: Introduce various exercises and activities.
- Goal: Let the individual experiment with different types of exercises to find what they enjoy.
- Activity: 2-3 days per week, 20-30 minutes per session.
Weeks 5-8: Development Phase
- Focus: Increase the duration and intensity gradually.
- Goal: Encourage consistency and slightly challenge their comfort zone.
- Activity: 3-4 days per week, 30-40 minutes per session.
Weeks 9-12: Maintenance Phase
- Focus: Solidify the exercise habit.
- Goal: Establish a routine that the individual feels confident to continue.
- Activity: 4-5 days per week, 40-50 minutes per session.
Throughout the programme, maintain a focus on autonomy. Regularly check in with the individual to adjust the programme based on their preferences and progress.
Empowering inactive individuals through autonomy-based exercises can significantly enhance their motivation to engage in physical activity. As fitness professionals, our role is to guide and support them in finding the joy and personal relevance in physical activity, rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all regimen.
- Sfandyari, B., Ghorbani, S., Rezaeeshirazi, R., & Noohpisheh, S. (2020). The Effectiveness of an Autonomy-Based Exercise Training on Intrinsic Motivation, Physical Activity Intention, and Health-Related Fitness of Sedentary Students in Middle School. International Journal of School Health. Click here to review the full research article.
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