Personal Training: Mind Over Health

Mind over matter is a phrase that most of us have probably heard a time or two. It refers to the concept of positive thinking: if you believe it, you can achieve it.

Years of practical experience within the fitness industry tells us that this mind-body connection is real and can work in a client’s favor or detriment. For this reason, each and every program developed should include a mental health component in which personal trainers assess self-efficacy and an individual’s willingness to change.

Self-efficacy is the extent or strength of one’s belief in one’s own ability to complete a task or reach a goal. An individual with high self-efficacy believes they can change their habits; they will lose those 60 pounds or complete that triathlon with training, perseverance and positivity. On the other hand, a person with low self-efficacy lacks confidence in determining and pursuing goals. They are self-sabotagers.

But even those with low self-efficacy can be re-educated. They can be taught that the mind harbors the ability to alter physiological state through positive visualization.

In addition, it is important to measure one’s willingness to change as it reflects that individual’s perceptions of his or her current health behaviors, as well as motivations to change those behaviors in the future. For example, someone who is aware of a need to change but lacks commitment or has no concrete plan of action is not actually willing to make the changes needed to achieve health and wellness goals. Not surprisingly, an individual who has identified specific behavior modifications, set up a reward system and is willing to put in the work needed to achieve their goals are more likely to actually succeed.

It may seem counterintuitive that an increasing number of people are seeking exercise as preventive medicine to a myriad of chronic illnesses — education regarding healthy eating is plentiful and readily accessible — yet there are more obese people in the world than ever. The missing variable is the mind-body connection. The realization that positive thinking is the key to weight loss, long term health management and a more holistic being.

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