How do I improve my motivation to exercise? 10 science-backed tips

A few of you responded to my article a few weeks ago in which I wrote about my dwindling motivation towards exercise since completing my half marathon at the end of last year. Since it seems a few of us are in the same boat, I thought I would share these ten tips from Positive News on how to improve motivation to exercise.

You can boost your intrinsic motivation by identifying why exercising is important to you.

1. Identify your ‘why’

Do you want to exercise for your health? Is it for your kids? Is it for how working out makes you feel? Exercise has long-term benefits for health and function, flow-on benefits for your children, and immediate effects on mood and vitality. Being clear in your mind about what you want to gain from exercising, can help prompt you into action.

2. Exercise with friends

You’ll be more likely to follow through, as you won’t want to let your friend down. Also, research suggests people exercise for longer when they exercise with family members and friends compared with those who exercise alone.

3. Offer conditional rewards to yourself

Reward yourself with a new piece of clothing or shoes you’ll enjoy exercising in. Be sure to make the reward conditional on doing a certain amount of exercise, so you have to earn it.

4. Get an activity tracker

Fitness trackers have a host of features designed to boost motivation, such as prompts, self-monitoring and goal-setting. There is a plethora of research suggesting activity trackers increase physical activity

5. Exercise at the same time each day

Research suggests exercising in the morning leads to faster habit formation compared with evening exercise.

6. Do an activity you enjoy

Starting a new exercise habit is hard enough. Increase your chances of sticking with it by doing an activity you find enjoyable. Also, you may exercise at a higher intensity without even realising it, if you are doing a form of exercise you enjoy. If you hate running, don’t do it. Go for a long walk in nature.

7. Start small

Leave yourself wanting more, rather than overdoing it. You’re also less likely to feel sore or injure yourself

8. Get a pumped-up playlist

Listening to upbeat music improves mood during exercise, and reduces perceived exertion, leading to increased work output. These benefits are particularly effective for rhythmic, repetitive forms of exercise, such as walking and running.

9. Take your dog for a walk (or someone else’s)

Dog-walkers walk more often and for longer than non-dog walkers, and they report feeling safer and more socially connected in their neighbourhood.

10. Make a financial commitment

Behavioural economic theory recognises humans are motivated by loss aversion. Some commercial websites have harnessed this for health by getting people to make a ‘commitment contract’ in which they pay a financial deposit that is forfeited if the health behaviour commitment is not met. This approach has been shown to improve physical activity, medication adherence and weight loss.

Be patient with yourself, and keep the long game in mind – it takes around three to four months to form an exercise habit. After that, the intrinsic motivators take over to keep your exercise routine going. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the one hooked on exercise and inspiring your friends and family a few months from now.

I hope one or more of these helps to get you moving!



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