How You Can Start Having Better Exercise Adherence

Also known as compliance and exercise compliance, exercise adherence is a term used to describe how well a patient or client is sticking to:

  • Their home exercise program
  • Their gym program
  • The recommendations made to them by their health professional or personal trainer
  • Other directions related to exercise that is given by a health provider.
Sporty asian man exercising with battle ropes at the gym on green floor. Strong male determine with her indoor workout for stamina and building muscular body. Athlete battle rope workout concept.
Chaay_Tee / Getty Images

Achieving Adherence

When you know you have certain things that must be done in order to get your life back, and/or to reduce pain to a level you can tolerate, you may need some "best practices" to help that along. Below are a few of my ideas for achieving and maintaining back exercise adherence.

Choose Your "Whens" Wisely

Where appropriate, schedule your therapeutic activities so they are convenient, as well as harmonious with your changing energy levels.

For example, if you have 10 challenging exercises to do daily, consider getting them done first thing in the morning — after you warm up, of course. Alternatively, if your therapist has given you some relaxation exercises to do, you might try them either in the late afternoon when you're energy is waning — which may well prove to be a nice treat — or just before going to sleep — which may help you unwind — as well as promote a better night's rest.

What About Boredom?

If boredom is your issue, ask your physical therapist or personal trainer to give you a variety of exercises and moves that address the same body issues, but that can be switched around without loss of therapeutic benefits. If you take this suggestion, be sure to also ask her for guidance on how and when to switch things up.

Give Up on "No Pain, No Gain"

Do prescribed movements and exercises in moderation, but be sure to do something every day. Let go of your "no pain, no gain" attitude when working for back pain relief. Instead of pounding out the reps and sets as many people who go to the gym tend to do, think about your form. Are you aligned all throughout each exercise move? It may make a difference.

Go Social and Accountable

Hook up with one or more accountability partners who understand your special therapeutic focus, and who are caring and understanding by nature. I know such people can be hard to find, and even harder to accommodate schedule-wise, but just the same, making the effort to connect may be well worth the investment. The reason is that the social interaction may help fuel goal achievement and thus your results.

Get Smart

Conduct research and ask questions of your chosen health professional regarding exercise as it relates to your diagnosis. Learning about your condition, its symptoms, the way in which it is diagnosed, and relevant treatments may help you take more of an interest in the things you're supposed to do in order to get past the pain and dysfunction. 

Some ideas for questions include:

Be forewarned — it is entirely possible that the answer to the last question may put you to work. I've been privileged to witness a number of people in the process of successfully avoiding the "knife" — but none would have done so without a lot of discipline and effort.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. BMJ Open. What interventions are used toimprove exercise adherence in older people and what behavioural techniques are they based on? A systematic review.

  2. Psychology Today. 5 Relaxation Techniques for Better Sleep.

  3. Harvard Medical School. Boredom busters to revamp your exercise routine.

  4. Shape. Fix Your Exercise Form for Better Results.

  5. Everyone Active. 7 Benefits of Having a Workout.

  6. Harvard Medical School. Pain Relief Without Drugs or Surgery.

By Anne Asher, CPT
Anne Asher, ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, and orthopedic exercise specialist, is a back and neck pain expert.