A fitness expert shares some common reasons why people are not getting the results they desire from their exercise programs.

People use exercise for a myriad of reasons, from weight loss to health improvement. But whatever the motivation, everyone wants to experience results. There could be several reasons why people don’t get the results they want, but these are three that I commonly see.

Consistent Exercise is Important

Weighed against all other factors, consistency is the most important.

Weighed against all other factors, consistency is the most important. Exercise must be performed regularly to produce results. Workouts don’t always need to be done with high intensity or for an extended time, but they must be done consistently.

If you have trouble sticking to your program, focus on overcoming obstacles that keep you from making exercise a habit. Once you have established consistency, you can focus on other details in your program. The quality of your exercise program doesn’t matter if you don’t do it consistently.

Workouts Should Get Harder

Getting results doesn’t require working yourself to the point of passing out, but you will need to gradually work harder. Confusion about this is often linked to a misunderstanding about exercising for health and exercising for fitness.

To achieve better fitness, progressively increase your exercise intensity.

A daily 30-minute walk is great for your health, but its long-term effectiveness is limited if you want to significantly change your physique or be a better athlete, which are fitness goals.

To achieve better fitness, progressively increase your exercise intensity to challenge your body’s systems. If you currently walk for exercise, you could alter your route to include walking uphill or incorporate stairs. Progressively increasing intensity will continue to improve your health and improve your fitness.

Recovery is Essential

Exercise is simply an impetus for your body to change and increase its capacity in some way. Lifting weights improves strength; rowing and biking improve cardiovascular function. But the change itself happens during the recovery after your workout. So recovery is equally important as exercise in a fitness program. Skimping on sleep, not eating healthfully or living with chronic, unmanaged stress will keep you from realizing the full effect of your efforts.

To get the results you want: exercise consistently, frequently challenging yourself and recover well after each workout.

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Mike Bento is an advanced trainer at The Clubs at Charles River Park and Massachusetts General Hospital. He holds a master’s degree in human movement and is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a corrective exercise specialist and performance enhancement specialist.