About Jacques Courseault, M.D.

Jacques CourseaultJacques graduated from Tulane Medical School and has seven years of experience as a personal trainer.

He is one of the founders of Don't Weight to Lose, a faith-based program for diet and weight loss that is run by Tulane University School of Medicine medical student volunteers.

Exercise Right!
with Jacques Courseault, M.D.

The First Step to Success: Committing to More than Yourself
How to Begin an Exercise Regimen
Walk Your Way to Better Health
How to Begin a Walking Program
Eating and Exercise: What to eat and when to eat it
Weight, Lean Body Mass and Exercise
Strong Muscles Fight Disease
How to Exercise with Disabled or Weak Legs
How to Conserve Muscle Mass During Weight Loss
How to Build Muscle Mass
How to Build Muscular Endurance
Exercise Ideas: Play Video Games!
Exercise Improves Eating Habits


The First Step to Success:
Committing to More than Yourself

A lack of motivation to exercise regularly is the number one reason why most of us begin an exercise program that simply does not last. With efficient 10-30 minute workout routines, most of us can honestly find the time to exercise. However, many of us have difficulty sticking with this small commitment because of a lack of motivation, which must come from both environmental and internal factors. As Plato believed, external reward is beneficial in getting a habit started, while personal commitment will help it to prevail. The first step you must take to ensure continual motivation is to walk (literally and figuratively) with someone else towards your new fitness goal.

To help better understand this concept, let's take a look at a 2007 study published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise (2007;8:441-461).

The goal of this study was to determine whether "intrinsic motivation" (self-motivation), or "extrinsic motivation" (environmental motivation) is more important in initiating and maintaining healthy exercise habits. Researchers surveyed 200 college-aged men and women to see which type of motivation was driving their workouts. They found that extrinsic motivation was more effective in initiating physical activity. For example, many began exercise programs to receive compliments from others, lose weight, look good, get paid, or receive some other tangible award. In other words, getting motivations outside of oneself was important in initiating an exercise program.

On the other hand, those who maintained long-term physical activity did so for more personal reasons, or were intrinsically motivated. They overall enjoyed physical activity, felt confident in correct exercise technique, were relaxed and personally satisfied with their exercise program. Here, self-commitment was more important than external reward.

This study teaches us that when initiating, or finding motivation to begin an exercise program, you must define your goals for working out in the first place and share them with someone you trust. Ask and answer these questions for yourself and share them with your partner:

1) Why am I starting and exercise program?
2) What are my goals in beginning a new exercise program?
3) What is my plan to become physically healthier?
4) How can my partner help me achieve my goals?

Again, to further solidify your initial commitment, you must share these goals with someone. To take things further, invite that person to achieve a similar exercise goal with you to help further boost your initial commitment and serve as additional motivation when you will need it.

After 2-3 weeks of regular exercise, you should identify what you personally like about exercising to strengthen your personal commitment. Ask and answer these questions:

Am I enjoying the way that you feel?
What changes in my body do I notice?
Do I like learning new exercises?
Do I like spending time with my fitness partner?
What improvements or changes must be made to my plan to keep it reasonable for me?

It may be tempting to skip this important initial step, but if you are serious about making and sticking with your change, you will build your plans on both ancient philosophy, as well as, current methods suggested through scientific research.

Find a co-pilot in this journey and you will reach your destination.