The Stages of Behaviour Change – Where are you?

Which one are you?

This is a model which I looked at within my Sports Psychology studies and I now apply this to my everyday work to understand where people are at. As a support mechanism for people to start exercise or develop their exercise routine, it is important to me that I understand where every client is on this model. As you read through this, you can probably identify yourself having been in each stage of the model – I certainly have!


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Five stages are identified for any type of behavioral change. The model was primarily developed in the 1970s to chart the changes in smokers trying to quit. It has since been adapted for physical activity, so that people incorporating healthy exercise can track their progress toward becoming regular exercisers. By knowing the stages, it’s easier to foresee obstacles, stay focused and develop motivational techniques.

Precontemplation Stage

Precontemplation is the stage of doing nothing. You may feel comfortable with your level of physical activity or lack thereof. If someone else mentions a need for increased activity, you may deny it outright or ignore her advice and tell yourself that you do not need to exercise.  Changing from precontemplation may require motivation that fosters confidence. There are likely to be many factors within this stage; there may be barrier such a time constraints due to work, family pressures or perhaps it is a lack of self esteem and just not knowing where to start. The wonderful thing about exercise is that we can all start from whatever level we are on. As a Personal Trainer, I offer a warm welcome and can support you through this stage. Each week we will set small steps – it may be to increase the distance you park your car from work, or to carry out three exercises per day to increase strength – w e go slow and steady for a lifestyle change to occur.

Contemplation Stage

Contemplation is the stage of awareness. Some people begin to notice they lose their breath more easily or their clothes no longer fit. This may be the stage of “I should . . .” statements, like “I should begin exercising,” or “I should lose weight.” In this stage, you will start to identify that change needs to happen and you will be noticing the adverts for fitness classes and memberships for gyms but perhaps not actually doing anything about it. In this stage, it is important to choose the right fitness goal for you.

Preparation Stage

Preparation is the planning stage when you decide how you will fulfill your goals. You may begin to use “I could . . . ” statements, like “I could join a gym,” or “I could run outside.” At this stage, rely on experts for guidance or motivation to keep your plans realistic and attainable. As you progress from this stage, expect to feel a sense of mental readiness to enact your physical fitness goals. This is where I can support you – you are welcome to book in for a free consultation to discuss what works for you.  This would then bring you on to the  action stage…

Action Stage

Action may be the hardest part of the five stages for many people. It’s time to start working out.  This is when relapse into a prior stage is most likely, so stay motivated with friends, trainers, regular weigh-ins, scheduled measurements or other quantitative reinforcements. Be in an environment which is warm and welcoming and you feel happy to be there.

Maintenance Stage

The maintenance stage is a stage of accomplishment. Your clothes may fit differently. You may have a lower resting heart rate or perform more quickly for longer periods of time without needing rest. The danger now is that you’ll rest on your laurels and stop working out. Maintenance is a long-term commitment. You can change your workout to stay motivated, but you have to keep working out. Your life has changed successfully from when you were in the first stages of change. Whoop!




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