The Psychology of exercise and motivation.

It’s common for people to over indulge over the Christmas period and around this time of year you might be thinking enough of the eating and time to do some exercise to shed some of those extra kilos.  If you already exercise that’s great but if you don’t then this might be due to lack of motivation.  What to do if this sounds like you? 

Here are some tips to help motivate you to exercise and make it a part of your life on a long-term basis;

Remind yourself of the benefits.

Sedentary lifestyle is one of the biggest contributing factors of disease and illness.  Exercise can improve your overall physical and psychological well-being so remind yourself of some of the benefits which include; weight loss, increased muscle tone, reduces risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers, helps manage pain, flexibility, improved sleep, live longer, improved self-esteem, reduces stress, more energetic, improves mood and decreases symptoms associated with depression. 

Healthy Competition.

Recent studies have found that healthy competition could be the key to motivating you to exercise. Healthy competition provides you with support and the motivation to keep exercising.  A good way to get this support is by joining support groups on social media to help you and each other with motivation.  Also using fitness trackers and apps can help you create an aspiration mindset that encourages you to achieve your personal best.

Do some exercise everyday even if it’s something small.

Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.  The Department of Health, in Australia recommend to be active on most, preferably all, days every week.  Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.  Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.

Do it first thing in the morning.

Do your exercise first thing in the morning because as the day unfolds there is more of a chance of something taking a higher priority and stops you from doing you exercise. 

Don’t exercise alone.

Find an exercise buddy to exercise with and hold you accountable to doing your exercise.  If you don’t know anyone who you can exercise with, perhaps try forming a walking group. You can advertise at the local shops or on your local community page on Facebook.  Or if you have a dog, take them for a walk or run, as they need exercise too. 

Do you something you like.

Not everyone is a cross fit or gym person, so if this isn’t your ‘thing’ for exercise then do something else eg, dancing, yoga, swimming, hiking, canoeing etc. If you don’t enjoy exercising then it’s not likely that you will keep at it for long. 

Build it into your day.

Research has shown that doing short bursts of exercise (like 10 minutes 3 times per day) can be just as beneficial to your health as doing exercise for longer periods.  Here are some ideas to help you build exercise into your day;

  • For short trips, walk or cycle and leave the car at home.
  • For longer trips, walk or cycle part of the way.
  • Use the stairs instead of the lift or escalator.
  • Get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way.
  • Park further away from your destination and walk.

Getting started.

Sometimes the getting started is the hardest challenge, but if you tell yourself that you will only do some exercise for 10 minutes, then you are more likely to exercise than not and you may find at the end of 10 minutes you feel so good that you are happy to continue for longer.

For further information on motivating yourself to exercise Dr Segar has a good book called “No Sweat” Lasting motivation to exercise.  Below is a short video by Dr Segar about making exercise something we want to do rather than something we have to do.  

Written by: Kimberley Aguet – Virtual Psychologist Counsellor