5 ways to help get motivated about fitness
Here’s an eye-opening reality check: Slightly less than half of adults 18 years and older meet the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity.1 And that percentage starts to tick down the older a person gets. So why is it so hard for people to be more active?
There can be a lot of challenges.2 Sometimes it’s finding the time when more important things get in the way. Or it’s an achy knee or fear of getting hurt that keeps someone from heading to the gym — or outside for a walk.
But there are ways to get over these challenges, whether you’re a beginner or someone who fell off the exercise wagon. Here are five ways to motivate yourself to start moving.
1. Identify the stumbling blocks
You probably have some idea about what’s holding you back from exercising. So, write down all those obstacles. Seeing them in black and white may often help bring about solutions. For example, are you worried about straining your achy joints? Then talk to a primary care provider about activities that would be safe to do. If the gym is too overwhelming, consider working with a trainer who may help you reach your fitness goals. If time is an issue, break up exercising into manageable chunks.
2. Start off slow — and then build up
Exercise doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Think of it as anything that gets your heart beating a little faster. “Start off slow with the basics. The first goal should be making exercise a habit and a part of your lifestyle. As time progresses and you get in the habit of working out, start setting bigger goals,” says Keith Hodges, a fitness coach and the founder of Mind in Muscle Coaching in Los Angeles.
So, start with a 10-minute walk instead of a 30-minute one, for instance. Then add minutes as the weeks go on. The workout will be more pleasant that way. And you won’t push yourself to the point of failure or injury. Hodges says he sometimes comes across some people who quit exercising after the first few workouts because “they’re sore or tired and scared to come back.” By starting slowly, that may be avoided.
3. Think of fitness as a journey
It’s natural to want to see results right away — and then get disappointed if the scale doesn’t budge or that 10-lap swim goal is still far off. But there is a more useful way to think about exercising, says Hodges: “It’s not ‘I’m not where I want to be.’ It’s ‘I’m working toward where I want to be.’” Find other ways to mark progress. Do clothes fit better, for instance? Are you sleeping more soundly?
“Remember, you want to exercise only for as long as you’re able,” Hodges says. “Nobody expects you to be an athlete in the beginning — your goal is to build consistency.”
4. Explore every fitness option
There’s no one-size-fits-all exercise that’s right for everybody. “It’s about what works for you as an individual. That could be weight training, walking, pickup basketball, pickleball — I would say the best form of fitness is the one that you can stick to,” says Hodges.
Keep trying different types of exercise until finding one (or a couple) you love and can do over the long term. Don’t overlook activities such as dancing or gardening — they count as exercise.3 Another way to turn exercise into a habit and bump up the fun? Bring a friend or your partner along.4
5. Reward yourself
If a treat boosts the motivation to get active, go ahead. Even small rewards help people get into the habit of exercising.5 Buy a new pair of sneakers or grab a post-exercise coffee with a workout buddy. “Do whatever you need to in order to get moving and keep going,” says Hodges.
You might not get into the habit overnight. But it can happen. And soon you’ll be reaping the many benefits of exercise. Just by taking that first, or second, step.