Embrace Forward Motion

Wellness, fitness & personal growth

Making Physical Activity a Habit

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Our bodies are meant to move, so it is important we give them opportunities and time to do so. I’ve come across a useful program for guiding individuals through change in physical activity, one that addresses motivation and action.

The program is based on the Stages of Motivational Readiness for Change model. The model derived from the work by Dr. Prochaska and Dr. DiClemente for users who wanted to quit smoking on their own, and was later adapted by Dr. Marcus and Dr. Forsyth (2003) to apply to physical activity.

My aim to share this model is for you to gain an idea of which stage you are in, visualize the next step up and envision your ultimate goal, which I hope is to make physical activity a habit.

The Stages of Motivational Readiness for Change

Individuals will fall into one of the following five stages in the model in any given period of time:

Stage 1 – Inactive and not thinking about becoming more active

Stage 2 – Inactive and thinking about becoming more active

Stage 3 – Doing some physical activity

Stage 4 – Doing enough physical activity

Stage 5 – Making physical activity a habit (maintaining Stage 4 for at least 6 months)

How much physical activity is “enough”?

The American Heart Association and the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (as referenced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommend at least the following amounts of physical activity for adults to stay healthy:

  • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week (30 minutes, 5 days a week), OR
  • 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity a week (25 minutes, 3 days a week), OR
  • An equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity


  • 2 days a week of moderate-intensity muscle strengthening activities

Moderate-intensity aerobic activities include brisk walking, cleaning the house, tai chi and other activities where you are at the point of barely breaking a sweat (at around 65-70 degrees)

Vigorous-intensity aerobic activities include running, jumping rope, shoveling, basketball and other activities where you will definitely be sweating.

Moderate-intensity muscle strengthening activities include yoga, calisthenics (body weight training), lifting weights and using resistance bands.

Set yourself up for success

The stages in this model are cyclical, rather than linear, as there is no endpoint to the process. Individuals gradually build their way up the stages (if they choose to actively pursue them) but may move back to a lower stage in times of struggle. It will likely take a few cycle repetitions for an individual to reach Stage 5.

To decrease your chance of relapse and increase your chance of creating lifelong behavior change, it is highly recommended you go through the stages in order.

Now what?

1. Determine which stage you are in and look ahead to see where to go next (in order!).

2. Start brainstorming specific ideas on how to move up to the next stage.

3. When you’re ready, check out these research-based strategies for improving levels of physical activity.

I always come back to the same questions: What do I want and how do I get there?

Let that be your guide as you begin seeing the possibilities!


American Heart Association. (2014, February 1). American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults. Retrieved April 12, 2015, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/American-Heart-Association-Recommendations-for-Physical-Activity-in-Adults_UCM_307976_Article.jsp

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014, March 3). How much physical activity do adults need? Retrieved April 12, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/adults.html

Marcus, B., & Forsyth, L. (2003). Motivating people to be physically active. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.


Author: Tali Levin

Writer, promoter and lover of fitness, wellness and personal growth. Living in Minneapolis, with interests focused on running, yoga, cycling, vegetarianism and local places and events.

One thought on “Making Physical Activity a Habit

  1. Pingback: Strategies for Sparking Change in Physical Activity | Embrace Forward Motion

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