What Motivates You to Exercise?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
It's no secret that there are many people who don't like to exercise for one reason or another, but at the same time, there are many others that really enjoy it. Why is there such a love it or hate it attitude towards exercise? There are numerous answers to that question and some might say that they had a really bad past experience, they find it boring and haven't found something that is enjoyable, or they may not see the instant gratification (weight loss) that they are looking for when it comes to exercise. As many of you know, what motivates one person to do something may not work for the next person. 
According to a recent article in The New York Times, health professionals may have been "using ineffective tactics to entice sedentary people to become, and remain, physically active." It suggests that perhaps we can motivate more people to exercise by promoting the benefits that you can see today, such as feeling happier, more energized and less stressed, rather than the health benefits in the future, such as weight loss or preventing heart disease or other health conditions. If viewing exercise that way is what helps a person be motivated to be more active, then that is great! But this makes me wonder how many people would continue to be motivated to exercise by the instant gratification of how you feel compared to other motivational factors, such as finding an exercise activity you enjoy or working towards other health benefits. No matter what the motivation is, the important thing is that we all become and stay active.

I find that my motivation to exercise is different each day and include both short-term and long-term benefits. I definitely enjoy the instant gratification that I get from it that causes me to feel better in general after exercising, but I also continue to do it because I enjoy the activities that I do, along with the long-term health benefits that I know I receive from it. I can't say that just one of those types of motivation work best for me (both work well in combination), so I certainly can't say either of those alone would work for you either.

So tell me, what motivates you to exercise? Do you think it is more motivating to focus on the short-term or long-term benefits (or a combination of the two)?

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I initially started exercising as a means to lose weight and get healthy. I made a zero-excuses commitment to exercise 5 days a week. For the exception of an occasional injury or serious illness - I have kept that 5 days a week commitment for nearly 18 months!

Exercise quickly ceased being a means to an end... it is now an essential part of my life - right up there with air and water! Now, with that said, there are certainly days where I don't necessarily feel like exercising - but what I want and what I NEED will forever be at odds... I know if I DON'T exercise I will be extremely cranky and more prone to binge eat. Knowing I will feel absolutely AMAZING afterwards is usually motivation enough. :D Report
I work out because i'm scared to have another diabetic seizure. I had 3 on my last vacation in gatlinburg, TN. Report
It's a combination of short term and long term goals for me. I want to lose weight to get pregnant. I had pre-eclampsia last time and I want to do anything I can to prevent that from happening a second time. Short term benefits is I am a stay at home mom so I rarely get time to myself. My run at night or in the morning really helps me release my stress. Report
I am working out and getting into shape so I can be in the 2016 Olympics for Archery! Report
Exercise is my antidepressant. It's a wonder drug. You have to be on this drug for several weeks before you realize: Hey, I'm not blue anymore! Or: OK, I'm blue, but it'll pass.

It can be really hard to motivate yourself to start and keep exercising when you're blue. So I try not to let more than a couple days go without it, or I'll end up in a bad place again.

Regular exercise gives me the feeling that I'm participating in my own life rather than watching from the sidelines. Report
For me it is the long term benefits.Does it matter how you try to get someone to exercise? I think it is best to put both short term and long term benefits out there and people will choose what works for them.

Healthy habits are very personal. You can't put everyone in the same category. You can't bully them into exercising, Good example like the success blogs on SP are what it takes sometimes to make the first step towards a healthy lifestyle. Report
Both work for me. I started working out again because I felt so lethargic, and I was overweight. Now, since I'm not quite as overweight, I really look forward to walking (or any other form of exercise). It's a nice benefit, too, that I'm protecting my body in the long run. Report
Working out is something I can control and for 1-2 hours It's all about ME! No errands to run, no kids, Just good ole sweaty working out, and knowing that how much I put into it directly correlates to what I get out keeps me going! Report
Working out is my time. My time to be by myself, to think, to contemplate, to make myself better. Yes, my workout time is all about me. Report
I exercise because after just a few months of SP 10 minutes a day start I really saw major improvements in my life. I have now gone from walker, wheelchair and scooter to using only a cane and recapturing my normals in my life. I never dreamed I could have so many everyday things back. This makes me guard those exercise times because they have changed my life...baby step by baby step. I also feel I have worked very hard to get this far and it would be a waste to lose this and go backward. I think it is both short and long term. Report
I love to sweat. Then taking a shower afterwards makes me feel cleaner than before I sweated! Love it! Report
My main motivation for exercising is the way it positively impacts my mood. I feel more energetic and positive when I exercise, and if those were the only benefits, that would be enough. All of the other benefits are bonuses. Report
As a yoga practitioner, here's a long-winded way of saying short-term benefits build long-term benefits. I think of my working out as a three-part wellness program. I use nutrition and exercise to maintain the most healthful functioning of my body that I can manage. That functioning, in turn, helps me to maintain the most healthful functioning of my brain's more cognitive systems, i.e. my thinking ability, as well as the autonomic and endocrine functions that are the basis of my feelings. And both of those benefits encourage me to maintain a regular meditative practice that sustains a healthy spiritual awareness. Report
Combination of both. Report
It makes me feel better: happier, more relaxed, more energised, stronger, leaner. Even if I don't eat well, I still exercise regularly. Report
If I DON'T work out (at least walk and do some simple strengthening exercises) I feel sluggish and unmotivated. Report
I work out for several reasons: 1) helps to maintain my 50+ pound weight loss (for over 10 years now!) 2) keeps my back and neck pain at bay 3) makes my body less flabby so it looks better. Report
My day just isn't complete without exercise. I love how I feel after exercise. I love my lab work from my doctor's office because of exercise. I love being strong. I love how much energy exercise gives me and how it has improved my performance of daily activities. Exercise is my DRUG of choice! Report
I work out to be strong, to be able to wear the clothes I like and so that when I am a senior adult, I will have a better chance of great mobility and less illness. Report
I am motivated to exercise because it makes me feel more energized , it makes me feel stronger & makes it easier to bend & move through my day.
It helps my depression. With exercise a daily routine I don't need depression medication.
It speeds up my metabolism & helps give tone & definition to my figure. People are always surprised by my weight they usually guess me 15-20 lbs. lighter & I know it's because of the toning the exercise does for me. Report
I work out because I need to loose weight. I think that I need to look at both the long term goal and short term. Short term goals give the the push to want to make it to that first step. Long term goals tend to make me feel a bit disappointed but it also makes me realize that I made it there once I can do it again. Just hope that this time I dont give up on myself. Report
Motivation for me is wanting to tighten up that loose flab on my belly and butt. So water aerobics and swimming 2x each week and Coach Nicole's Butt Blasting video 3x each week keep me motivated! Report
I like to exercise for a variety of reasons. One of them is that I feel more energized, also to help me keep my weight off and my bones stronger as I age.
Sometimes I like to exercise for the challenge of it, especially if it is something I have never done before. I like to be strong! Report
Most days, I exercise because it has become a part of my journey to a healthier lifestyle. Granted, 18mon ago, I only exercised because I knew if I wanted to lose weight that cutting calories was only half the battle - I HAD to exercise.

Having said that though, the type of exercise I choose to do I chose because I LOVE it. I started running late last year and it has done more for me than any diet ever could. I LOVE RUNNING, especially first thing in the morning. My second most favorite way to start the day. :) Report
Aerobic exercise/strength training has evolved over the years into part of my lifestyle. It's part of my DNA with measurable results - lower weight, lower body fat, and the overall fact that exercise/strength training is one of the best medicines you can take with proven healthy benefits. Report
Exercising in the early morning wakes up my brain like no amount of coffee can do. Report
My favorite physical activities as a kid were swimming and bicycling and that continues today at the age of 64. I now have a group of biking friends it's like being a kid again...now that is motivation. Report
Well, I have exercised all my life and I enjoy it. The other reason is that after being diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in 2006, my oncologist informed me that exercise and reducing my weight to my normal BMI would help prevent the recurrence of breast cancer... this is my goal... However, it's difficult for me to lose weight because I am insulin resistant, and it's a delicate balance between exercise and diet... It's an ongoing struggle that I intend to overcome and slowly, but surely, I am getting closer to my goal!... The other thing is that I find that exercising also helps me feel better mentally. Report
I have more energy and am able to do the things I love! Report
I exercise for so many reasons its hard to list them all. I have a great deal of variety in my workouts precisely for that reason - the type of workout I do depends on my objective. If I am stressed I go for a walk in the park or yoga. If I have had a long day and want moderate exercise to unwind the elliptical looks good. If it is first thing in the morning and I want to attack the day I go for kickboxing. Walking the dog is always a feel good activity (for both of us I think). I remind myself that for years I chose to use food for so many things - comfort, reward, etc - and all I got was slower, heavier and depressed. I can use exercise for a number of things too - and the benefits are all positive. The question, really, is what do I want my workout to do for me in a given day? Report
I like working out because 1) it makes me feel good; 2) it gives me something positive to do with my time; and 3) I like knowing that I'm strengthening my heart and bones and muscles for now and the future. Report
Working out gives me a feeling of accomplishment! I give myself a pat on the back for every workout completed, especially on the days when I am tired or not as motivated because of other things going on. It's a great stress reliever as well! On one occasion I was very stressed over family and work matters and I hopped on the treadmill for 20 minutes and gave it my all. All it took was 20 minutes to help reduce the stress and feel a sense of calmness. I also work out because I feel much better for doing so and I know it's good for me and the side benefit is that I also look better. ;-) Report
I workout because... I love it! I used to hate exercise, or I thought I did, but then when I started forcing myself to do it, I found that I liked it! Report
I started exercising about 3 yrs ago and I am a committed workout person now. I think looking at "long-term" benefits can be a trap, but I also think that the immediate "pain" of it all is very discouraging. It took me about 6 months to start feeling "better" and realizing the improved mood, energy & self-esteem boost from regular (at least 3 X per week) exercise. Now, I workout for the incredible way that it makes me feel: stronger, more alive, more focused. It also gives me time alone - almost a time for meditation-lite. And I love that! I wish everyone could start with some sort of trainer or buddy. I think that helped me a lot. It got me over the "hump" and helped with the many questions I had. My physical appearance has been a wonderful side effect, but really the bottom-line is, I workout because it helps me feel better. I wish I could give this to all those who are struggling to get to their workout every day. (PS I am 60, a grandmother and to date I have lost about 15#'s total, dropping one dress size and adding more muscle & tone.) Report
I love the way I feel during (strong, alive and energized) and the way I feel afterward (accomplished, healthy and pleased with myself). Also, it means I can have more calories in my diet! It's always a balancing act with me since I have a big time sweet tooth and love to snack. Report
I feel better, stronger, happier, energized... Plus I have a more positive self image. I feel more confident when I look in the mirror and I "look good". I've never been a "skinny" girl, so I've learned to embrace who I am. I try to be the best me! It feels great to reach my goals. Report
Have always loved the way it makes me feel! :-) Report
Because I want to be the best I can be, for myself and my family, so I can do what it is I do to the best of my physical ability, and simply because I like it. (Oh, and all those health benefits, but really, those are just the fringe benefits in my mind.) Report
My motivations vary, too. Most recently, I'm noticing that I'm using exercise as an instant de-stresser. I'm also motivated by how it's reshaping my body as I'm getting close to my goal weight. And I'm loving the health benefits like better sleep, increased cardio-vascular endurance, and improved mood. Report
It's a great way to start my day..already feeling successful . Motivates me to make good food choices throughout the day. At 65 years old, I want to be physically & mentally strong. Report
I like how it starts my day when I work out in the morning. And I like how much better I feel getting in shape and becoming fit. Report
Even at age 58 my vanity is satisfied with how my body looks. The comments I have gotten from friends and relatives are great motivators. This summer walking around with size 34 shorts and a t-shirt with no belt and feeling good has been awesome. I know that working out is the only way I can keep this going. Report
Started to exercise more and more to reach the health, stress reliever, achieve self-confidence benefits. Report
It makes me feel proud of myself. Even if my laundry is piled up and I'm behind on work at the office, I know that I got something right! Report
the reason I workout is that I am continuosly trying to better my best.... I compete against myself all the time.... if I did 10 reps last time this time i will do 11.... if I lift 20 pounds this time.... next time 25..... I find when I compete against myself and i realize my goals I am thrilled... Report
I love the way I feel after a workout. Not just the short term endorphin high. But the stress release, the feeling of accomplishment I gain after an intense workout. Report
The only reason I exercise is because it is supposed to make me healthy. I have exercised at my doctor office gym for a couple of months and I felt great after exercising for the first month but now all I feel is tired. sleepy and hungry. The harder I work out the more tired,sleepy and hungry I get. I am now gaining weight. I hate exercise and I will never enjoy it but I will keep doing it even if I never lose the weight. My blood sugar and blood pressure are also going up so I am not sure about the health benefits but we shall see. If I am going to eat more and crave more junk food then exercising may not be beneficial. My brain never thinks healthy after I exercise all I want to do is go to a restaurant to eat foods with lots of fat and sodium even though I have healthy foods at home that would be good for me. I only live 4 blocks from the gym and it is closer to go to the house to eat then to a restaurant at 10A. I eat before I workout but still hungry afterwards. When I do get home all I feel like doing is sleeping but to be able to sleep at night I no not to so I play games on the computer instead. Exercise is supposed to help with depression and at first it did but now I am even more depressed then I was before I started my exercise program. Report
I love how I feel after a workout, be it a walk or my elliptical. I do know that I have to workout out first thing when I feel motivated and have energy.."love it" BUT if I put off to the evening I can HATE it, my body feels different, like it doesn't want to move. Perhaps those that don't like exercise have to find a time a day that they feel they can enjoy it. I find I just have to do it, if not I won't later in the day. Report
What motivates me to exercise is to maintain my weight loss, to improve problem spots (toning), add muscle tone, and increase my energy. I think it is better to focus more on the long-term benefits, rather than the short. I am doing this for life and I want this to always be something I am working on, even when I get older and my energy slows down. I want to do this for life. Report
I definitely believe we are a society that values instant gratification over future benefits (or ramifications). So I agree, if people recognized that it exercise will make them feel better in the short term, they might try it. Unfortunately for some people just getting up off the couch at all seems to be difficult. Fortunately for me, I have always been a person who has enjoyed certain activities, so as long as I remember that, I can get in some exercise each day. Report
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