How to Find Motivation to Exercise

motivation to exercise

We all know the benefits of exercise—weight loss, increased energy, and decreased stress, to name a few—but staying motivated to stick with it can feel impossible. How do we make time for exercise without dreading it every day? Try these tips to maintain your motivation to exercise.

Set Goals

For some people, setting goals (and watching yourself achieve them!) is really motivating. It can be something as small as walking 20 minutes a day or getting up and stretching before work 5 times a week. Start with something that’s measurable and achievable. Once you’ve grown comfortable with your initial goal, consider setting a new, slightly more difficult one. 

Don’t put pressure on yourself to constantly be raising the stakes—this can cause you to get burned out. Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, so try and build up to at least that much weekly exercise.

Play a Sport

When you were a kid, you probably never really thought about exercise. That’s because you got all the exercise you needed by playing! Turns out chasing someone during tag on the playground and taking ballet class in the evenings was for more than just fun.

If sports are still your jam, consider joining an adult league to spice up your exercise routine. Find ways to work out that don’t feel like exercise—maybe you can get together with some friends and shoot hoops a few times a week or join a recreational softball league.

Make Exercise Part of Your Routine

If you think of exercise as an optional part of the day, it’s easy to skip it when you feel tired, busy, or just plain unmotivated. But what if it was as important a part of your day as eating breakfast or going to work?

Exercise is essential to a healthy lifestyle, so let’s start treating it as essential. Find a time during the day when you can go for a walk or swing by the gym. Remember, 150 minutes a week (or 20–30 minutes a day) is all you need!

Invite Friends

What if exercise could become a time to socialize with friends? If you workout with others, whether you’re going for a bike ride or playing pickleball, you hit two birds with one stone. Exercising with friends also builds accountability, since your friends are depending on you to keep your commitments.

Don’t Be Rigid

It’s important to build exercise into your routine, but it’s equally important to allow for flexibility. Like it or not, things are going to come up. For some people, one slip up in their routine due to sickness or parent teacher conferences can derail their whole exercise regimen.

Instead, focus on getting back on track as soon as possible. Recognize that missing one or two workouts isn’t going to set you back to the beginning, but it’s also not going to get you to your goals as quickly. Focus on the end goal, and you’ll find the motivation to get going again.

Think of it as “Me” Time

There’s a lot you can do while exercising, depending on how you do it—you can talk on the phone, read, watch TV, or listen to music or a podcast, for example. What’s your guilty pleasure, and how can you indulge in it while exercising?

In one study, people who were given a free, page-turning audiobook and only allowed to listen to it at the gym exercised 51% more often than others. Thinking about exercise as your chance to indulge in “me” time instead of as a chore can help turn it into something you actually look forward to doing!

Finding motivation to exercise isn’t easy, and we’ll all struggle with it at some point. By recognizing it and adapting our routines, we can maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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