Q: Will an exercise journal help me be more active?
A: An exercise journal is a way to track and log your exercise to see progress toward your physical activity goals and to plan your next steps. By keeping track of what types of exercise you do and when you do it, an exercise journal can help keep you accountable to yourself for the goals you set. Even if you feel discouraged by an unusually inactive day, seeing your progress can help you stay on track. Tracking also provides a reality check if one inactive day is growing into a pattern of inactivity.
Keeping an exercise journal can also be a valuable tool to problem-solve how you will deal with barriers you encounter. You’ll be able to identify days, times and forms of exercise with which you seem to be most successful, and when there’s a consistent pattern of missing planned activity. For example, do plans work out better for morning, lunchtime or evening exercise? Do you stick with your plans better when committed to a group, one friend, or getting time alone?
If you want to change your physical activity habits or want to maximize chances you’ll stick with current habits, experiment with different kinds of exercise journals. Try a simple paper form that you can personalize to track what’s important to you. Check out apps or online sources, which often offer some bells and whistles like graphing your progress or other motivational messages. What you track depends on your goals. Walkers and runners might track distance, steps, time or pace. Track strength-training progress by listing amount of weight and number of sets and repetitions to help you know where to start and when to advance the challenge so you keep gaining strength. To help you start and stick with exercise, keep track of what physical activities you try and what you enjoy most. Also, add notes about how you feel on the days you exercise to remind yourself of the boost in energy or mood that you feel each time you’re active. Tracking could be just the help you need to make time for physical activity more often.