Our Town: Art and science of exercise compliance

Dr Tom Ferraro

The older one gets the more one becomes sedentary. 

The most sedentary one becomes the more one begins to look as if one swallowed a Volkswagen Beetle. Sounds like a syllogism from the Miller’s Analogy Test we all had to take during those halcyon and slender days of high school.  Alas, the slender days of high school are long gone and now we are left with a figure that does look alarmingly as if one swallowed a Volkswagen. 

Some call it a pot belly. Others say its flab or fat or the anti-flat belly. Any way you call it, one gets tired of trying to ignore your bulbous image in the mirror and it’s even more tiring to suck in your stomach all day. 

I think it was time to do something about it. I have often looked at the Healthtrax sign atop the Winthrop Wellness pavilion at 1300 Franklin Ave. in Garden City. 

So last Saturday I sucked in my belly and walked into the building fueled with life’s great motivator, shame and embarrassment. 

The inside of the building is really very impressive. 

Gone are the days of the sweaty gym with a few free weights. As I walked through the lobby there were circular openings which allowed you to see the gym down below, almost like gazing down at heaven.  

An escalator ride down and a short walk across marble floors and you arrive at the gyms entrance.

I was greeted by Denise Frawley who couldn’t have cuter, kinder or more encouraging. I was given a quick tour past the two swimming pools, the Jacuzzi, the lines of treadmills and stationary bikes, beyond the weight machines, the stretching station, the private workout rooms with trainers and through the free weight room. Sold!  Sign me up.  

I was scheduled to meet with a personal trainer for assessment within the week and told that “three days of workouts per week” would be recommended in order to lose weight get fit.

Of course Denise was right. 

Three days per week is the optimal number to see obvious results in psychotherapy, in hot yoga or in fitness training.  

This of course presents the real issue which is to how to stay motivated and compliant with the regiment.   

I cannot rely on role modeling to help. The closest my father ever came to engaging in physical fitness was to lift three pound weights over his head ten times in the morning. 

His routine took him about eleven seconds. I kid you not.  And my older brother was a beatnik so he was no inspiration either.  My only hope was to research the psychology of compliance and learn from the scientists.

And low and behold there is an abundance of research on this matter of compliance.   

The first article I read told of the danger of excess weight which  includes hypertension, diabetes, depression and cancer of the colon and prostate. Okay you have my attention.

Here are some guidelines in insure compliance are as follows:

1. Make sure the exercises you choose are fun and enjoyable to do. Make the first sessions brief and well within your limits. I think my father may have gotten stuck in that phase.

2. Set realistic behavioral and outcome goals. That means schedule the number of sessions that you can realistically deal with given time pressures. An example of outcome goals would be to set a goal of 10 pounds of weight loss over two months.  

3. Make you routine a habit and set to sessions in your weekly planner.

4. If you are tired that day just go easy on the workout.

5. If you miss a session forgive yourself but stick to your plan. 

6. Share your goals with friends so they may support you.

7. Write your goals on a paper that you pin to the wall and see each day.

8. Occasionally monitor your progress with the help of a professional fitness expert. 

9. And if all this fails I will look in the mirror after showering and repeat to myself  “I look like I swallowed a Volkswagen Beetle….and this is not a good thing?!?!”

About the author

Dr Tom Ferraro

Share this Article