Exercise is good for you. In fact, it’s one of the best things you can do for your health. People who exercise regularly are fitter, live longer, and feel happier.
Despite these well-known facts, many people have a hard time getting off the couch. Why?
This is a question that has puzzled researchers, fitness gurus, and psychologists alike. There are many possible reasons (including genes, according to researchers at the University of Southern California). But the best reason is probably that we’re not motivated by the right things.
Extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation
Many of us are motivated to exercise through extrinsic motivation, which means being motivated by external things. This includes exercising to look as buff as Jim, because your mom told you to, or because you think society expects it of you.
On the other hand, people who are motivated intrinsically tend to be better at sticking to exercise regimes. When you’re intrinsically motivated, you’re motivated by something within. For example, you may like playing a sport simply because you enjoy it.
Find your intrinsic motivation
Intrinsic motivation is powerful, but if you’re a person who hates sports — perhaps you got bullied in gym class — how are you supposed to motivate yourself?
You’ll have to change your perspective on the matter, and yes, some creativity may be required. Think of ways you can re-frame certain activities. Here are a few examples:
- Hiking to lose weight? Love nature? Re-name “hiking trip” to “birdwatching trip” (if you enjoy birdwatching) or “nature therapy session.”
- Does going to the gym with your partner feel like a chore? Re-frame it as valuable time spent with your partner during a busy work week. Your gym date is just that — a date.
- Ride your bike or walk to work not because it’s healthier, but because you save on gas, car insurance, car maintenance fees, and because going emission-free is good for the environment!
Of course, everyone’s motivations will depend on their personal values.
Supplement this with extrinsic motivation
Even though exercising because you want to fulfill beauty standards is less powerful than exercising because you like the sport, extrinsic motivation is still motivation.
For example, give yourself an external reward once you’ve reached a goal, whether that be a dietary cheat day or a hefty purchase you’ve been eyeing.
Reviewing and understanding the physical and mental health benefits of exercise can also work as either an intrinsic or extrinsic motivation. Remember, exercise is extremely good for you. It can:
- Help prevent or delay serious, chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer
- Strengthen cognition and reduce the risk of dementia in older adults
- Reduce anxiety and depression as well as improve sleep and general quality of life
Motivate yourself with money
It may seem shallow, but one thing that motivates a lot of us is money. So, if you have a monthly unlimited membership to the gym, for example, go as much as you can to get the most bang for your buck.
Working out can even help you save money in the long run. We’ve already established how powerful exercise can be in staving off chronic diseases. Well, in case you didn’t know, chronic diseases can be expensive. Treatments, therapies, medications, and hospital bills add up.
The United States, in particular, deals with notoriously high pharmaceutical prices. Some Americans have resorted to buying life-saving prescription medicine like LIPITOR® (atorvastatin) — a cholesterol medication — from licensed pharmacies outside the country. If you live with a chronic illness but would much rather invest your money into ski lift tickets or yoga classes, you can save money this way by using a pharmacy referral service like RxConnected.
So find what it is that makes your body move. You can learn more about the motivation research in this article by visiting this American College of Sports Medicine brochure.
To read more on topics like this, check out the lifestyle category.