Facebook icon

Diabetes Qualified

How to motivate your clients to move more

How to motivate your clients to move more

Written by Bianca Penning – Accredited Exercise Physiologist

When it comes to exercise, many people are familiar with the saying, ‘getting there is the hardest part.’ 

Life is busy and often exercise becomes the last on the to-do list, with reasons of insufficient time, unreliable exercise partners, lack of energy, and costs often factoring into a lack of motivation. 

These are just some of the reasons health professionals are familiar with, as to why exercise plans don’t get carried out or sessions are missed. So, how can we help to motivate our clients more?


Firstly, listen. Really listen to your clients. Dig a little deeper into their reasons for not exercising – respectfully. By gaining an understanding of what is taking priority over exercise in their day-to-day life, you will be able to come up with a more realistic and individualised plan, together. 


Break down some of their reasons and what they might mean, such as ‘I don’t have the time.’ This is often a case of exercise not being a priority in a person’s life. So, use your knowledge to help them find the time in their busy life. Break down their weekly schedule, determine what barriers might pop up for them, develop a plan for these barriers, and discuss how they will re-prioritise, should their week change. 

Small wins, big gains

Focus on small pockets of time to begin with – even the smallest amounts of exercise count. Completing a few small bouts of exercise over the week is an achievement and can be increased as time goes on and priorities shift. Two or three 1-hour exercise sessions may feel like too much of a time commitment and could quickly get relegated to the bottom of the to-do list, especially when they are still establishing new habits. This can leave a person feeling like they have been unsuccessful in their weekly goals. So, help them prioritise realistic goals, plan and achieve. Motivation can be gained from small achievements, too. If we are focusing on their long-term health, creating small but positive habits to begin with is an ideal outcome.

Find the fun

If you hear, ‘I don’t like exercise’ it’s important to ask why. Have they had bad experiences in the past? What is their idea of exercise and how it should look and feel to them? It’s important to really listen to their answers so that you can create a positive experience for them. You need to help them find something that they do like. Movement doesn’t have to be unenjoyable, so your challenge is to get them to engage in movement that feels good and is fun! Also ask, ‘who is your motivator?’ Identifying if your client has a person in their life who can provide fun and motivation for them will also assist in keeping them moving.


The benefits of exercise are well known but highlighting them can be a strong motivation activity. Consider writing a list together of what they want to achieve out of exercising. Weight loss is often one of the main focuses for people, but as you know, not the only benefit. Use your expertise to discuss the positive impact exercise will have on their mood, energy levels, sleep quality and heart, joint and muscle health. The list goes on. Having this visual reminder can support their motivation, particularly if their weight loss plateaus.

Finding the motivation to move more can be challenging, but finding the right approach for the individual and their circumstances will give you your best chance at helping them to achieve their goals and create healthier, long-term habits.