I've long held the belief that people will only make exercise a daily part of their lives when they are ready. Offers of low monthly membership rates or a beautiful facility full of amenities won't mean anything to them unless they've already made the mental commitment that it's time to exercise. And no one can make members actually walk through your doors to exercise unless they are ready to make it a priority.

However, a recent study shows that creating actions to exercise may help people make a commitment to exercise and to improve their health. The study, “Effects of Directed Thinking on Exercise and Cardiovascular Fitness,” was published in the Journal of Applied Biobehavioral Research. The authors are Laura L. Ten Eyck, Children's Medical Center Dallas; Dana P. Gresky, Corphealth Inc.; and Charles G. Lord, Texas Christian University. During the nine-week study, the researchers found that participants who created a list of actions to follow to get them started exercising maintained their exercise routine and improved their health more than the control group and the group that created a list of reasons to exercise.

We often hear that people need to know the benefits of exercise so they understand its importance to them. Knowing the reasons to exercise may play a part in moving people to action, but the study seems to show that just hearing the benefits of exercise isn't enough. Instead, people need concrete actions they can do to get them to exercise — and it's more effective if they create that list themselves. By doing so, people have a higher rate of recall of the actions and adherence to them, the researchers hypothesize. Participants in the study were students who either did not already work out, did not work out regularly or were just starting to exercise on a regular basis. Some of the actions that they listed were purchasing proper workout attire, setting goals, making a schedule, bringing a headset to listen to music and finding a workout friend. These actions may seem basic, but for people who have never exercised regularly, they are deserving of placement on an action list.

The authors then hypothesized about what would happen if regular exercisers were put through the same study. Based on results of a study about using directed thinking to improve study habits, the authors theorize that people who already work out would benefit even more from a list of actions than the people in their study.

Based on these findings, it's not hard to see why personal training has become a growing part of the health club business. Industry statistics show that members who participate in personal training are more likely to achieve their goals and are more likely to maintain their memberships. However, not everyone can afford personal training or are ready for personal training. What does that mean for you as a club owner? It may mean that you must re-work your club orientation for new members. Perhaps instead of just a tour of the facility and a quick review of the equipment, the orientation should involve time for new club members to create a list of actions that they can take to reach their goals. It would not take a lot of additional time on your part, but it could lead to club members who come more often, reach their goals and refer their friends. And those are actions that all club owners are ready to experience.