By Dr. Michelle McKenney

Editor’s note: Dr. McKenney led the Walk with a Doc walk at Button Park on May 6, speaking to the group of walkers about her list of tips for creating behavior change. Senior Scope reached out to learn more so we could share those steps with readers and Dr. McKenney graciously shared them through the New Bedford Wellness Initiative. Our thanks go out to both NBWell and Dr. McKenney.

1. Be specific: about your goal! For example, if you say to yourself “I want to walk more!” then your plan should look something like: I am going to walk three days per week for 45 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. I’m going to start at 6 a.m. and this is the route I’m going to take.

Better yet, put this on your calendar! The less we have to think about what we are doing the easier it will be. Don’t give yourself any time to doubt your decision or make excuses. Don’t think just do!

2. Be prepared: Lay out all of your clothing the night before and make sure you have what you need! Is there possible rain in the forecast or a chill in the morning? Make sure you have weather-appropriate gear. (There’s no such thing as bad weather- just bad clothing!) Lay out all of your clothing and everything you may need for that walk so that there is very little decision-making in the morning. If you are headed out after work, make sure you have a gym bag prepared, complete with a water bottle and anything else you need.

3. Bring a friend: We are much better at being accountable to some-one else than ourselves so recruit a partner! A spouse, friend, neighbor, or even your pet. It will also make your activity more fun when you can share it with someone you care about. Don’t be shy; spread your positive change!

4) Be Kind: If you miss the mark and don’t meet your goal, then forgive yourself! Failure is part of the process (in fact, it’s essential!) and should be expected. Don’t kick yourself when you are down and get discouraged. Did you know that turning a new behavior into a habit can take anywhere from 50 to 250 tries?

5) Begin Again: Keep doing it. If you meet your goal, great job!! Continue to expand and layer one small change on top of another. Many small changes equal one very big one, so don’t give up!!

Dr. McKenney is a graduate of the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed a residency in Family Medicine at Kent Hospital. She is board certified by the American Board of Osteopathic Family Physicians and the American Board of Obesity Medicine. She has a special interest in preventive health, obesity medicine, and geriatrics. She is a Primary Care Physician at Hawthorn Medical Associates in Dartmouth.