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Negative vs. Positive Reinforcement in Fitness

Exercise does not become a habit until three weeks of actively participating in physical activity each day. Leading up to that point of habit can be extremely hard for a lot of individuals. Most people have to try multiple times to stay consistent and motivated to workout. Without even knowing it, you are either using negative or positive reinforcement to try to push yourself into achieving your goals. In this article, we talk about the different types of reinforcement and which one will get you to your results faster.

The people you surround yourself with on a daily basis can highly influence the way you act and feel. When you have fitness goals, it is very important to be around people who are encouraging and want to help you work toward those goals. Being around those who constantly eat junk food and don’t take your wishes seriously will make reaching your goals more challenging. It is equally important for you to be motivating and help others work towards their own health and fitness goals. In order to become good support, or know who to look for when you need support, you need to recognize the difference between negative and positive reinforcement.

Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement is a ‘punisher’ and is used with the intention to decrease specific behaviours. Negative reinforcers are stimuli that a person will work to get rid of or to stop. For example, “I am fat and I don’t want to be anymore.”

Negative reinforcement may work for some people but can often lead to stress, which in turn can work against your goals. This is why at Motive 8 Fitness we focus solely on positive reinforcement with our clients.

Examples of Negative Reinforcement:

  • Speaking about yourself in a way that is putting down your self esteem.
  • Viewing the negative outcome of the situation without seeing any positives.
  • Reminding yourself of the current state you are in vs. the state you want to be in.
  • Looking at what you could have done better instead of celebrating your accomplishments.
  • When a peer tells you that you need to lose weight or that you are fat.
  • When a peer gets mad or frustrated with you when you slip up on your program.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is used with the intention to increase specific behaviours. It focuses on the good, and how far you have come, instead of how far you have yet to go. For example, “I lost 2 inches in the waist and I am looking and feeling healthier.”

This is the best kind of reinforcement when it comes to weight-loss. Using positive reinforcement will keep you on track by reminding you of your achievements. Remember, negative reinforcement causes stress and low self-esteem.

Examples of Positive Reinforcement:

  • Recognize and celebrate your achievements.
  • Remind yourself of the progress you have made so far.
  • Identify your negative emotional triggers so that you can turn the bad habit into a positive change.
  • Find something positive to say to yourself everyday about your efforts.
  • Set realistic goals. Having impractical expectations regarding how fast you will lose weight can easily sabotage your motivation.

Suggestions for Change

  • Keep a grateful log. Write out all of the things you are grateful for before going to sleep each night.
  • Write your goals as if you have already achieved them. Include senses such as sight, sound, touch, and smell. “I look great in the mirror and I feel energized!”
  • Find good influences. Write out the names of five people that you spend a lot of time with and describe why they are great influences. Make an effort to spend time with them.

Get in touch with a certified therapist or weight-loss professional if you are having trouble sticking to a weight-loss routine or if you are finding it hard to stay in a positive mindset.

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