Beginning an exercise habit is challenging, but maintaining it is even more difficult. Sadly, approximately 50% of exercise participants discontinue exercising in structured programs within the first 6 months of starting, although researchers are uncertain if any of these individuals exercise on their own. Chapter 2 reviewed the reasons people start and then drop out of exercise programs. These reasons are collectively called exercise barriers. There are many of them, and the result has been a catastrophic effect on the collective health and quality of life of millions of people. Earlier in this book we addressed the array of strategies available to help clients start an exercise program. This chapter addresses what MHPs can do to help clients adhere to it.
The tendency of a person to maintain participation in an exercise program, or any behavioral regimen, for that matter, once the individual has agreed to undertake it is called adherence. In the medical literature, Rand and Weeks (1998) broadly define adherence as [the degree to which patient behaviors coincide with the clinical recommendations of health care providers] (p. 115). Other definitions of