Motivate Yourself to Exercise
Have you exercised today? Chances are you have not if you are an American adult. In fact, only around 20 percent of us get the U.S. government-recommended amount of weekly aerobic exercise—“at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or a combination of both.”
So how can you be among the 20 percent of exercisers? Here are six tips for motivating yourself to exercise:
1. Commit to Exercising
First off, write down your exercise goal and the reasons behind it. Seeing your goal it on paper helps make it palpable and re-reading your reasons can help you when you’re not feeling motivated. Make the paper a contract with yourself. You may even want to tell others like family members or friends about your exercise goal and plan. For some people, telling others makes the commitment more real and also holds them more accountable for sticking to it.
2. Find an Activity You Enjoy
Why would anyone stick to a workout routine that he/she didn’t like? Try out new sports until you find one or two that you enjoy. It’s so much easier and funto engage in an activity you like rather than exercising merely because you “should”. Research (and common sense) shows you are more likely to stick to an exercise routine you like rather than one you don’t enjoy.
When considering sports to try, think back to activities you enjoyed as a child. Did you love running around in fields? Did you look forward to the mile run in gym class? Then maybe try an endurance sport like running or triathlon. Perhaps you love the feeling of whacking objects or feel good when you can safely channel aggression. Then try your hand at tennis or boxing. Keep in mind that you may have to try out a few sports before you find one or two you like.
3. Exercise with a Friend
No man is an island. We are social creatures and connecting to others can be an important part of sticking to our workout plan. Exercising with a person you like makes the experience more fun and one you’ll want to repeat.A friend can help provide that nudge when you don’t feel like exercising. You won’t want to let him/her down if you planned on meeting to exercise.
Talking with a friend or two can be a great distraction from any physical discomfort you get from the exercise activity. By yourself, you may notice minor aches or feeling out of breath, but with a friend you may be so interested in hearing about his/her latest work escapade or a recent movie that you’ve run three miles and barely noticed any displeasure.
4. Be Flexible
We can design the perfect day with a 45-minute workout scheduled only to have a meeting run late or an unexpected visitor that throws the whole schedule off. That’s okay; life happens. The key is realizing now that this will often happen and when it does, modify your plan and try to exercise anyway. You may not get the length of workout or even the type of workout you ideally wanted. But exercising some is better than doing none at all.
5. Make Exercise Part of Your Daily Routine
Most of us have several pockets in our day where we could incorporate exercise. It takes a little planning up front, but walking to nearby places instead of driving, or committing to doing a few desk-friendly exercises (e.g., bicep curls) at regular intervals can become habits that, over time, positively impact your health. The small successes of carrying out these activities can be motivating since you will likely feel good about yourself for taking these steps.
6. Reward Yourself
Go ahead; get yourself a smoothie after your three-set tennis match. You deserve it. While the intrinsic reward of feeling good about your exercising keeps you heading to the gym or field or courts, some extrinsic rewards now and then can be motivating, too. When you reward yourself with something you enjoy, your brain makes that link between the activity and the reward (think Pavlov’s dog).
The external reward can help the activity become habit. Over time, your motivation may become more intrinsic as you experience the positive effects on your mood and health from exercise. If you do set up external rewards for yourself, carefully choose them. Try for rewards that are healthy, or at the least, do not sabotage the positive effects from engaging in exercise.
There’s no time like the present. Find a friend, try a sport and weave an active lifestyle into your week. Soon enough, you’ll be among those people who proudly call themselves exercisers!
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