How to Be Motivated to Exercise

Four Methods:Throwing Yourself Into ItExercising With OthersRecording Your ProgressGetting Equipped

It can be tough to discipline yourself to exercise, especially when you have little or no interest in it other than wanting to be more active because you "should". Exercise should be an integral part of your life. You don't have to do it all the time or make it overly strenuous, but the health benefits of walking just 30 minutes a day are well worth it. It can help prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and strokes, along with helping you maintain a healthy weight.

Method 1
Throwing Yourself Into It

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    Take the plunge. The real trick to motivating yourself to exercise is to not think about it, and just throw yourself into it. Taking action and getting moving can stimulate a response in you emotionally and encourage you to keep at it. You might be dreading going for a run or lifting some weights, but generally once you’re going your feelings will change.
    • Exercise allows more oxygen into your brain, which in turn releases more chemicals that make you feel good.
    • Once you’re exercising you will have more positive feelings, and your mood will improve.[1]
    • This is why exercise is a great natural anti-depressant, and is often recommended for people suffering from mild depression.
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    Have fun. One of the most important factors in maintaining your motivation is finding something that you actually enjoy doing. Exercise shouldn’t be a chore that you have to force yourself to do. It might start out like that, but finding forms of exercise that you like will make a huge difference to your motivation. Keep an open mind and try new things.
    • Don’t be put off by the memory of freezing cold cross-country runs when you were at school, there’s more to exercise than this.
    • You could do anything from a ballroom dancing class, to badminton, horse riding, or martial arts.
    • When you find something fun, keep it in your routine, but still look for some variety.[2]
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    Turn your commute into exercise. This won’t be possible for everyone, but if you live within running or cycling distance to where you work, turn your commute into part of your exercise routine. Often people struggle to put time aside to exercise, but by exercising on your way to and from work you are being active without having to set aside any extra time.[3]
    • Running or cycling to and from work will also help you clear your mind in preparation for, or to recover from, a stressful day in the office.
    • Cycling to work is a great workout and will help you get into the habitat of cycling and exercising more generally.[4]
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    Try to exercise at the same time each day. If you are busy it can be tough to find time to exercise, but you are more likely to stick to it if you firmly book it into your schedule. Go through your diary carefully and try to carve out a regular window that is free most if not every week. If you do exercise at the same time and on the same days every week, you have a better chance of maintaining it.[5]
    • Sooner or later the exercise will become as deeply embedded in your schedule as everything else.
    • You’ll even find yourself looking forward to it as a break from the everyday grind.
    • Habits and routines take a while to form, but they can be very powerful once they are in place.[6]
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    Punctuate your day with physical activity. A good way to get more exercise in your day, is just to add in little bits of physical activity whenever you can. Making small changes can add up to a big change in the long-term, as well as helping you change your outlook and get more used to being physically active. Some examples of small changes you can make include:
    • Taking the stairs instead of using the elevator.
    • Walking or cycling to the shops instead of driving.
    • Taking a brisk walk when you have a break at work.[7]
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    Use walking as a form of stealth exercise. Put yourself in a position where you have to walk and don't think about it being a form of exercise. This could be done by getting off the bus a few stops earlier to home or work, or by walking anywhere you can in a reasonable distance such as to the dairy or grocery store, school, the post office, town, or a friend's house.
    • For example, you could park further from stores, so that you have further to walk to start shopping.
    • The more often you do this the easier it will become as you get used to it.

Method 2
Exercising With Others

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    Get an exercise partner. A great way to get motivation and stick to a workout routine is to involve other people. If you and a friend both want to get into shape, you can exercise together and motivate each other to stick with it. Some days you won’t be feeling up to it, and some days your workout partner won’t be. Having this support and added motivation can really make a difference.[8]
    • Exercising with other people can also make it just more fun.
    • Try to figure out a schedule that you can both stick to.
    • Working out with a partner gives you added support and a feeling of camaraderie.
    • Not wanting to let down your friend can also be an added source of motivation.
    • You might also benefit from a little friendly rivalry and competition.[9]
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    Do team sports. If you find doing individual exercise like running or swimming a little monotonous or boring, consider participating in some team sports. Here you will get the benefits of added fun and motivation from exercising with others, while also playing a sport that has more variation than just running or swimming backwards and forwards.
    • Playing team sports is also a social activity, and associating exercise with seeing friends and having fun makes it easier to motivate yourself to stick with it.
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    Make friends at the gym. Another way to make exercise a little more social and a little less daunting is to make the effort to befriend the regulars you see at your gym or fitness classes. If you do a regular spin class, or yoga class, you will find it easier to motivate yourself to keep going if there is a good atmosphere in the group.
    • If you are in a group where nobody talks to each other, think about trying out a different class.
    • Try a few out and see if there is one where people are chatting at the start and the instructor knows everyone’s name.[10]
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    Join a club. If team sports aren’t your thing, you can still make solo activities, such as running and cycling, into a group activity. Look around for a local running, cycling or swimming club near you. You may be able to join up with a running club who go for a fairly casual run once a week. By doing this you can avoid the overt competition of team sports, but still get some exercise and make some new friends.
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    Participate in an online community. You can get some the benefits of sharing your experiences with others by joining an online fitness community that is closely related to your own circumstances. If you are trying to exercise to lose weight, you will find loads of forums and websites where people share their stories and progress. Alternatively, if you are training for a specific event, such as a triathlon or marathon, you will find supportive online networks of people doing the same thing.
    • Participating in an online community is a good way to connect with others and get support if you don’t know anyone in the same situation as you.
    • You can find a huge variety of online groups, so look around and find a friendly and welcoming forum.
    • Online groups can set each other goals and report on progress and difficulties just as any face-to-face group would.[11][12]

Method 3
Recording Your Progress

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    Establish your goals. Having clearly defined goals will help you follow your progress and reward yourself when you achieve your aims. It’s best to start with relatively straight-forward short-term goals, and then progress onto more ambitious ones. Start with something achievable to give yourself a welcome confidence boost early, but don’t be satisfied with that, and keep your eyes on the bigger picture.
    • A short-term goal for someone who hasn’t exercised for quite a while could be to walk 10 minutes a day, five days a week.
    • The next goal could be to walk 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
    • A long-term goal could be to complete a 5km walk.[13]
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    Make a pledge. Research suggests that we are more likely to stick to plans or schedules if we go a step further than just saying to ourselves, “ok, I’ll do that this week.” Consider making a more formal pledge to yourself and even signing it. You can do this with friends and make a pledge to do 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week, for a month. Writing down your goals can help you stay motivated.[14]
    • You can even introduce a cash incentive or penalty.
    • For example, you might sign a deal with a friend that says if you stop exercising you will pay her $50.
    • There are even websites that specialise in enabling you to make contracts online, which can improve your chances of sticking to them.[15]
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    Record your starting point. If you are specifically looking to exercise more to help you lose weight, be sure you record your starting point so you can check your progress as you go. You might just want to weigh yourself, or take a photo. You could also perform a fitness test, such as seeing how many crunches or squats you can do in a row.
    • Remember that if you are looking to lose weight, your diet is every bit as important as the amount of exercise you get.
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    Track your progress. Keep a log and make note of new times, distances or weight lifted. Seeing a chart of improvement will hopefully keep you working towards gains. Tick off the days and the workouts with gusto and look back to see how far you’ve come and how strong you are. If you see you’ve been exercising regularly for two months, this can help motivate you to keep going. You’ve come this far, why stop now?
    • You can use all sorts of apps and websites to quickly and easily record your progress.
    • These digital tools often include nice visualisations so you can see your progress more clearly.
    • You can also take regular pictures or do weigh-ins to check the results of your hard work.
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    Reward yourself. It’s important that you reward yourself and congratulate yourself on sticking to your exercise routine. After each workout you will be feeling tired, but good, so take a few minutes to savour the feeling and be proud of yourself. Consider the endorphins released during the workout and remember this great feeling you now have.[16]
    • By giving yourself this kind of internal reward you are reinforcing your positive connection to exercise.
    • External rewards are good too, so be sure to treat yourself when you reach a major goal.
    • You could reward yourself by buying some new running shoes after completing your first 10k.[17]

Method 4
Getting Equipped

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    Invest in some workout clothes. Having some nice workout clothes can be a factor in your exercise motivation. Being comfortable and feeling happy with your appearance when working out is one barrier that can be overcome. Having good workout clothes can also help you identify yourself as someone who exercises.
    • Have enough clothes that you can exercise daily and don’t have to resort to quick hand washing in the sink.[18]
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    Leave your workout gear out. Once you have some workout clothes and sneakers, be sure you don’t hide them away in a cupboard where they are out of sight and out of mind. Leave them somewhere visible so you have frequent visual cues and reminders to exercise.
    • You can also leave some exercise gear, such as dumbbells or a balance ball, in a prominent place.
    • For example, you could put a pair of dumbbells by the sofa, and then when you sit down to watch TV you can prompt yourself to stand up a do some curls.[19]
    • Leaving your gear around will help you keep exercise in mind, and help you to come to identify yourself as an active person.
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    Consider getting an MP3 player. Music can be a good motivating tool to get you moving and keep you moving. The type of music can be anything that inspires you or gives you a buzz and some energy. Listening to uplifting music before and during exercise can really help.[20] Getting a portable music player can be a good way to keep you motivated if you’re out for a run or are working out in the gym.
    • Music can also help keep you focused and in the zone by blocking out distractions.
    • Choosing upbeat songs can give you subconscious encouragement to keep your pace up with the music.
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    Try an exercise gadget. Gadgets that track your exercise habits and physical activity are becoming more and more popular. If you’re the sort of person who likes to monitor progress and be able to quantify what you are doing, a monitoring fitness gadget could be perfect for you. Something as simple as a pedometer can help you see how much or how little you walk in a day.
    • Research suggests that people who wore pedometers tended to walk a thousand steps a day more than when they weren’t wearing them.[21]
    • You can also get simple apps on your smart phone that will help you monitor yourself and keep track of how much exercise you get.


  • Talk to your doctor prior to beginning any new exercise routine.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Diet & Lifestyle