Exercise should be uppermost in the minds of those looking to enhance their wellness. The quest for fitness, however, is so pervasive in developed cultures that some controversies are inevitable. We believe the best approach is for you to offer your client basic guidelines to help them (re-)shape their fitness regimens, but let them be the ultimate arbiters of what is right for their bodies, lifestyles, and preferences.

If you are looking to help your client develop a long-term exercise program to enhance their wellness, here are some questions you can ask them to help identify their needs, preferences and goals.

What are your exercise goals?

Some people want to train to run a marathon or do a triathlon. Others merely want to be fit to enjoy a variety of activities in their life. Still others hope that they can keep chasing their toddler grandchildren around the garden. Or perhaps your goal is about losing weight. Gaining clarity on this can help you tailor the component parts of your program to better meet your goals.

What is your current level of fitness?

If you have already been working out regularly, you can obviously start at a more intense level than if you haven’t or if you have been recovering from illness or injury. If you have physical limitations, get a doctor’s advice about what restraints you should observe (for example, even younger folk with knee joint replacements may not be able to jog or do jarring aerobic exercises).

What activities do you enjoy doing?

Even if you are healthy and fit enough to jog, if you hate running, it is probably not the way you should get your cardio workouts. Maybe you adore dancing or rollerblading, or love being out on your kayak. Working out which component(s) — meaning, aerobic, strength training, flexibility, or balance — your preferred activities satisfy can help you plan a total program you will stay with.

What kind of budget do you have?

Some very keen fitness enthusiasts happily pay gym fees and then hire personal trainers on top. Others can afford an aerobics or yoga class most nights. If that is not you, don’t despair. You can get just as good a workout from a pair of dumbbells hidden “off duty” in your wardrobe as you can from a full gym membership. Walking and running are usually free, except for the cost of decent shoes. There are many exercises for strength training using the body as a weight which can be done in your own home. When you know what you can spend, you can work out how best to deploy your available funds toward your preferred program.

What kind of setting works for you?

Maybe you adore swimming, but live in a place that’s cold nine months of the year and you have no access to an indoor pool. Perhaps you live in a flat area that would well accommodate fitness trips on your new bicycle. Or perhaps you work near a gym and could arrange to work out at lunch or just after work.

What time of day works for you?

Granted, you should not be exercising too close to bedtime, as that is stimulating, but if you’re a night owl, you also may not feel as happy exercising in the morning. Maybe you are constrained by your work schedule or your family duties and do not have total choice in the matter. The point is to try to find the best possible time for your own body/mind, lifestyle, and commitments, and then stick with that scheduled time. Habits become powerful when ingrained.

Are you an introvert or extravert in terms of your exercise?

That is, do you prefer to exercise alone, with one person, or in a large crowd? Some people love weight training but hate the noise and crowds of gyms, so investing in their own equipment is a sensible option. Others feel more motivated when working out with others, and some find that — on days when they are struggling with energy or motivation — their workout partner can get them going: a service they gladly provide in return when the partner is having a “low” day. A walking companion is preferred by many hikers and walkers (adapted from Helpguide.org, n.d.).

This post was adapted from the article Exercise: A Moving Part of Wellnessavailable via the AIPC Article Library.