MoveWell Health and Fitness


4 Scientifically Proven Ways to Motivate Yourself to Exercise

Do you want to make your once-a-week muscle class or weekend spin workout more regular? Maybe you are among those who want to sweat more frequently but struggle to find the exercise desire to make fitness a part of everyday life.

Conventional wisdom hasn’t been instrumental in determining how to get into the rhythm and become the person who says, “I’ll meet you for afternoon tea later. I’ve got to get my jog in first.” 

Many so-called experts tell you to need to “want it” badly enough. Or that it takes 21 days of doing something in a row for it to become second nature. But then what do you do on the 31st day when it’s raining outside, and you’d rather sleep for an hour than go for a swim?

Exercise Motivation Made Simple

Interestingly, economists and psychologists have been analyzing how to decipher what drives us to do things we don’t always want to do. Here are a few of their best workout motivation strategies.

1. Treat Yourself to a Genuine Reward

Sure, some individuals may be motivated by ill-defined goals like “improved health” or “weight management.” If that doesn’t work, make the advantages of working out more measurable by rewarding yourself with a protein shake or an episode of your favourite show afterwards.

Create a neurocognitive “habit loop” that includes a cue to initiate the behaviour (putting your spinning footwear next to your bag), the routine (completing spinning class), and the reward. 

Extrinsic rewards are so effective because your brain can latch on to them and make the connection that the behaviour is worthwhile. It increases the likelihood that the routine will become a habit.

Over time, the incentive becomes fundamental as the brain associates sweat and pain with a surge of endorphins. These are the feel-good chemicals released in the brain that are responsible for that “I-feel-freaking-great” rush you get after a good workout. You won’t even want the treat once you’ve trained your brain to recognize that the workout itself is the reward.

2. Execute a Commitment Contract

We can make commitments to ourselves the whole day, but research shows that we are more likely to keep them when we create them in front of friends.

You can raise the stakes even more by having a deal promising to pay a friend $20 for every missed fitness class. It’s as simple as changing the price. Say you will commit to doing something for a set period, such as exercising for 30 minutes a few times per week for 12 weeks. If you don’t do that, you’re going to pay the penalty, whether it’s financial or the humiliation of telling your friends you didn’t keep your word.

Researchers discovered that those who agreed to sign more extended contracts did end up exercising more than those who consented to shorter durations. We must get past the initial annoyance in order to see the long-term benefits. The challenge is in creating tools to aid in this process.

3. Reconsider Positive Thinking (Visualisation)

Positive thinkers have long advocated for visualising the advantages of a conduct as a motivating tool. For instance, when deciding whether or not to get out of bed in the morning to go to your training session, imagine how the sun will feel on your face as you run, jump, skip around at your neighborhood park. Or how excited you’ll be to see your new muscles grow.

Visualise the positive outcomes of your session if you start imagining the impediment to getting there. These positive visualisations will help you overcome the negative self-talk telling you, I’ll wait till next week / session.”

However, such feel-good visualisations are only effective when combined with more practical problem-solving techniques.

The rest of the equation is as follows: After identifying your desire and visualizing the outcome, figure out what’s really holding you back. This is referred to as “mental contrasting.”

In one study of 51 female students, researchers asked each woman who asserted they liked to eat fewer unhealthy food snacks to imagine the advantages of snacking on better foods. Those who accurately recognized the trigger that made healthy snacking complicated for them — and devised a strategy to reach for fruit when hunger pangs struck — were the most successful in sticking to their goal.

“Are you too exhausted to go to the gym daily?”

After imagining the hurdle, you can try figuring out how to overcome it and devise a strategy. For example, instead of stopping at home, you can switch to early hours or midday workouts or go straight to the gym.

4. Locate Your Fitness Friends

Here is the truth: no one can pay and force you to do more squats, run more miles, or lift heavier — and science backs this up.

In a recent study, researchers discovered that rewarding new clients with $30 or $60 gift certificates for exercising had little to no effect on their workout determination. While getting paid to sweat may sound like a good deal, a strong, caring community will ultimately motivate you to get up and move. The laughs, high fives, and words of support that come from the bonds that people form are priceless.

There’s a fitness squad for everyone, from Strength and conditioning studios to run groups to yogi circles. Find a workout routine that excites you and surround yourself with people who will help you build your confidence as well as your strength. What is the price of putting yourself out there? Priceless.

If you need a Carnegie-based personal trainer who can help you with more tips on your health, consult with the fitness professionals at MoveWell Health and Fitness. Start your journey to wellness today.