For many people, starting and sticking to a long-term exercise program requires a bit more than just hitting the treadmill, says an expert presenting today at the American College of Sports Medicine's 14th-annual Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition.

Those seeking motivation to start an exercise program should first determine their "fitness desire," says Michael Bracko, Ed.D., FACSM.

"A person can want to exercise for a variety of reasons," he said. "Extrinsically, a physician could explain the ability of physical activity to lower blood pressure. Intrinsically, it can come from simply wanting to look and feel better."

Determining which type of motivation - extrinsic or intrinsic - will have the greater effect is a good place to start when considering exercise. That might mean a visit to a health care provider for a physical assessment and exercise prescription, consistent with the principles of the Exercise is Medicine TM program.

Tailoring the type of activity performed to each individual's lifestyle and ability is important, too, says Bracko, who highlighted these five types of fitness:

- Functional fitness includes activities such as bowling, gardening and golf. These leisurely-yet-active pastimes are good for older adults who want to stay active as they age.

- Health-related fitness incorporates movement to enhance overall well-being. Mind/body exercises such as T'ai Chi and yoga are examples of health-related fitness, as are "kick-start" exercise activities such as walking.

- Physical fitness is for those who have made a conscious decision to work out on a regular basis. This encompasses what most people picture when thinking of exercise - cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training.

- Recreational athlete fitness includes specialized sport training. These exercisers care about cross-training for general fitness, but have a dedicated focus on sport to keep them motivated to exercise.

- Elite athlete fitness is for a very small, specific population segment - those whose intent in specialized training is high-level training rather than improving fitness and having fun.

Beginners can use these fitness types to find their motivational niche, Bracko said.

"If someone is naturally competitive, they might consider training for a five-kilometer run to stay excited about exercise," Bracko said. "Alternatively, a noncompetitive older adult could consider joining a golf league to work in regular, fun, casual activity."

American College of Sports Medicine