How to Find Motivation to Exercise

Three Parts:Finding Motivation to Get FitMaking Exercise FunPlanning for Setbacks

There are a variety of reason to exercise — decreased risk of chronic health conditions (like high blood pressure or diabetes), weight loss or improved fitness levels. Despite this, studies have shown that about 80% of Americans do not get the recommended amount of activity each week.[1] The current recommendation is to spend 150 minutes weekly doing cardio and about 2 days a week doing strength training activities.[2] Many people find that a lack of time, busy work or school schedules, family obligations or health conditions make it hard to exercise regularly. This can make finding motivation to be physically active on a regular basis much more difficult; however, with a few simple tips, finding the motivation to exercise regularly can be easy.

Part 1
Finding Motivation to Get Fit

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    Journal the benefits of exercise. Writing down the benefits of exercise may help you find the motivation you need to get out a few times a week for a sweat session.[3] Jot down the benefits and how they will affect your life. For example:
    • Weight control.[4]
    • Reduced your risk of cardiovascular disease.
    • Reduced your risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
    • Reduced your risk of cancers especially, colon and breast cancer.[5]
    • Reduced your risk for osteoporosis.
    • Improve your mental health and mood.
    • Improved cardiovascular function.
    • Increased self-esteem.
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    Record your health goals. There may be one or a few goals that you want to achieve by incorporating regular physical activity into your routine. Writing down these goals or recording them with an app and tracking your progress is one of the top methods of staying motivated.[6]
    • Goals should always be SMART goals; that is: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time constrained. Instead of saying "I want to lose weight," your goal would be, "I want to lose five pounds by June 1st."
    • Consider purchasing a journal or notebook to write down all your goals and progress over time. Readjust or change your goals as needed. This is also a good place to jot down any motivational statements or benefits of exercise you find.
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    Visualize your workouts. Spend a few minutes each day visualizing yourself exercising, enjoying the activity and how good you'll feel after completing your workout. Studies show that visualization can help improve motivation, self-confidence and self efficacy.[7]
    • If you workout in the morning, go to bed thinking positive thoughts about your morning routine. You're more likely to wake up to the morning alarm.
    • If you need some motivation for your afternoon workout, spend a few minutes pumping yourself up about your workout.
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    Commit to 10 minutes of activity. Sometimes the idea of spending an hour or more in the gym isn't motivating at all. Instead of letting yourself get overwhelmed or discouraged by a longer or more intense workout session, just commit to moving or being active for 10 minutes.
    • Remember, some activity is better than none! Even if you do a quick workout, studies have shown you will still receive some modest benefits - like improved mood and decreased blood pressure.[8]
    • To meet the minimum guidelines for physical activity (150 minutes weekly), you could walk for 10 minutes, three times a day Monday–Friday to meet that goal!
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    Workout with friends. Studies have shown that people are more likely to show up to workouts when meeting up with a friend or family member.[9] Schedule a few workouts with a close friend for an enjoyable and social workout.
    • Friends are also a great support group and can help keep you motivated and on track with your physical activity goals.
    • Looking for a workout buddy? Try going to group classes at your local gym. Over time you'll meet and know the "regulars" at your classes.
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    Track your progress. Keeping track of your progress can be very motivating, especially long-term.[10] If you can see where you started and how far you've come or what you've achieved you may feel more inclined to stay active. Consider a smartphone app like MyFitnessPal that can help you determine how many calories to eat each day, record your calorie intake, and calories burned during exercise.
    • Track your weight. Losing weight and tracking your weight loss is a fun and exciting measure that can keep you on track.
    • Track your body fat percentage. As you continue to exercise (especially with strength training), you may notice that you lose weight, decrease body fat percentage and increase lean muscle mass.
    • You can also track how much you can lift, how fast you can run or how many sit-ups or chin-ups you can do.
        • Look into one of the many fitness apps available to download to your smartphone. There are numerous types of apps and devices (fitbit, watches with various tools such as HR monitors, pedometers, GPS) that can help you track and record your progress.
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    Treat yourself. There's nothing better than reaching a difficult goal and treating yourself to something special. Set yourself up for a fun and enticing reward for your commitment to be active on a regular basis.
    • Treat yourself to a new outfit or new set of shoes.
    • Reward yourself with a few new songs for you workouts.
    • Schedule a soothing and rejuvenating massage for all your hard work.
    • If weight loss or weight maintenance is one of your goals, you may want to choose a reward that does not involve food. Although that might be exciting and enticing to you, it may derail you from your healthy eating plan or diet.

Part 2
Making Exercise Fun

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    Play a sport. Not everyone will find all exercises exciting or fun. If you're not a fan of your exercise routine, you're more likely to give up your activity program. It's important to incorporate physical activity, but also very important to find an exercise that you enjoy.
    • Basketball, soccer, football or tennis with friends will get you moving around, increase your heart rate up and burn calories.[11] These activities are physically exerting but also provide a chance for you to catch up and bond with family and friends.
    • Consider joining a community or intramural sports team. With a little research you will be able to find a sports team that's appropriate for your fitness and skill level.
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    Sign up for a race. Have a competitive side? Get hit with neon color paints in a color run or get down and dirty with an obstacle course race. You’ll be motivated to exercise as you race against your competition.
    • There are a variety of different types of races - running, biking, obstacle courses or a combination of sports. Sign up for a race that fits your fitness levels.
    • Many races have a cost associated with signing up. However there are races that are free or low in cost. Find something that fits into your budget.
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    Plan an outdoor adventure. Hiking, biking or kayaking can get you out of the house and back to nature. Enjoy beautiful scenery and good weather while working up a sweat.
    • Some outdoor activities do require special equipment, knowledge and skill. However, if this is something you're interested in pursuing take the time to get lessons by a qualified instructor.
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    Play a game. If you don't have access to a gym or a safe outside environment, there are other fun options to get in physical activity. Studies have shown that you can see a modest improvement in cardiovascular levels and muscle tone by using exercise-based video games.[12]
    • Many gaming consoles now offer a variety of exercise games and programs. Find games that include cardio, strength and flexibility training for the most complete workout.[13]
    • Make sure you have the appropriate size and safe space to exercise in your home.
    • Review all safety information and warnings that are included in any exercise-based video game.
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    Use what you have. You don't need fancy equipment or a gym to get a good, challenging, and fun work out. Jumping jacks, on-the-spot lunges, push-ups and sit-ups all take up very little space to perform and require no equipment. If you get bogged down with the time, money and effort required to do a “proper” workout at a gym, think again. All you need is a little time (10–20 minutes) and a bit of floor space.

Part 3
Planning for Setbacks

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    Journal. Taking time to journal may also help you stay motivated. Journaling has been associated with a variety of health benefits (like improved weight loss) and has also been shown to help people stay on track with their fitness goals.[14]
    • You can include your goals and the benefits you're looking forward to as you continue to be physically active on a regular basis.
    • Alternatively, use a fitness app as your journal.
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    Read over your long-term goals. Everyone can lose track of motivation and why they should be exercising regularly. It can be helpful to read over your goals on a regular basis to help you stay focused and motivated.
    • Repeat your goals to yourself during a tough workout or when you're feeling too tired to hit the gym.
    • If your final goal takes you six months or a year to achieve, set some smaller goals to help you feel like you are making progress. They can be very simple, such as, "My goal this week is to take the stairs twice a day, four days this week. Then next week, maintain that goal or even increase it to taking the stairs twice a day for five days."
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    Schedule in your exercise each week. Sometimes life just seems too busy to fit in even a small workout. However, if you schedule in your weekly exercise routines, this can help you get back on track and find even a small amount of time to workout.
    • It can be hard to restart an exercise routine after a setback. Start by scheduling in just 1-2 days of exercise into your week.
    • Review your entire daily schedule - from the time you wake to the time you go to bed. You're bound to find 10-20 minutes that you can fit in a short and effective workout.
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    Find a support group. A support group can be a great tool when you're trying to find and keep the motivation to workout. Everyone has experience a lack of motivation to workout or setbacks in their activity routine. Finding others that can commiserate with you and support you can be helpful.[15]
    • Talk to your workout buddy or classmates from your group exercise class. They may be able to give you tips from when they've been dejected or unmotivated to workout.
    • Research forums online for extra tips or support groups.


  • Every few days, have a recovery day so your muscles can repair themselves. On those days, only stretch.
  • Before doing any exercise, make sure you warm up.
  • If you have been sedentary for awhile, just start with a few minutes each day. Even that can be enough to get you motivated and you can add more time as you get used to exercising.
  • Always talk to your doctor prior to starting any new exercise routine (especially if this is new for you) to make sure exercise is safe and appropriate for you.

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