What Motivates You to Exercise?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  305 comments   :  41,328 Views

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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    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. - 7/4/2013   4:49:21 PM
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    Combination of both. - 7/4/2013   3:38:48 PM
    It makes me feel better: happier, more relaxed, more energised, stronger, leaner. Even if I don't eat well, I still exercise regularly. - 7/4/2013   3:35:18 PM
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    If I DON'T work out (at least walk and do some simple strengthening exercises) I feel sluggish and unmotivated. - 7/4/2013   3:16:08 PM
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    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. - 7/4/2013   3:11:22 PM
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    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! - 7/4/2013   2:49:41 PM
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    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. - 7/4/2013   2:40:04 PM
  • 248
    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. - 7/4/2013   2:33:34 PM
  • 247
    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. - 7/4/2013   2:31:31 PM
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    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! - 7/4/2013   2:27:32 PM
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    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! - 7/4/2013   1:47:30 PM
  • 244
    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. :) - 7/4/2013   1:37:08 PM
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    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. - 7/4/2013   1:34:14 PM
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    Exercising in the early morning wakes up my brain like no amount of coffee can do. - 7/4/2013   1:19:21 PM
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    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. - 7/4/2013   1:16:14 PM
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    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. - 7/4/2013   1:04:10 PM
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    I have more energy and am able to do the things I love! - 7/4/2013   12:58:35 PM
  • JOLA11
    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? - 7/4/2013   12:58:11 PM
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    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. - 7/4/2013   12:54:27 PM
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    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. ;-) - 7/4/2013   12:47:02 PM
  • 235
    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! - 7/4/2013   12:23:27 PM
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    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.) - 7/4/2013   12:17:43 PM
    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. - 7/4/2013   12:06:57 PM
    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. - 7/4/2013   11:49:38 AM
    Have always loved the way it makes me feel! :-) - 7/4/2013   11:35:14 AM
    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.) - 7/4/2013   11:24:05 AM
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    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. - 7/4/2013   11:21:44 AM
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    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. - 7/4/2013   11:18:17 AM
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    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. - 7/4/2013   11:07:24 AM
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    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. - 7/4/2013   10:58:55 AM
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    Started to exercise more and more to reach the health, stress reliever, achieve self-confidence benefits. - 7/4/2013   10:48:59 AM
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    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! - 7/4/2013   10:41:03 AM
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    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... - 7/4/2013   10:30:32 AM
    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. - 7/4/2013   10:28:54 AM
  • BSLMKH1954
    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. - 7/4/2013   10:25:35 AM
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    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. - 7/4/2013   9:54:00 AM
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    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. - 7/4/2013   9:36:26 AM
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    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. - 7/4/2013   9:14:53 AM
    I go rowing on the river because I really enjoy it.
    I cycle because it's the fastest and cheapest way of getting where I need to go.
    When people say to me "you get a lot of exercise" or "you must be really fit", I do a double-take because I don't think of them as 'exercise' or 'fitness activities'.

    But I AM fitter than most mid-50s women! :-) - 7/4/2013   9:00:46 AM
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    "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."
    * Very well written blog.

    If one doesn't know what actually feeling good/healthy feels like, there's no motivation for lack of vision. If they feel like they feel OK and that feeling better involves doing things that involve giving up what they live on, they will be motivated not to adopt a healthy lifestyle. I've been on both sides of this.

    For me it was a combination of finding an activity that I liked and experiencing weight loss and better health that has kept me coming back.

    - 7/4/2013   8:59:16 AM
    My workout gives me a few things:
    1. My time for ME. I work a lot of hours and finding the time to go for a walk, goto a fitness class, or get in some circuit training is time I can spend on me and my goals.
    2. I want to continue to maintain my weight loss - SparkPeople helped me lose 85 pounds and I have NO desire to ever see that much weight on my body ever again.
    3. It feels GREAT to get in a good workout! - 7/4/2013   8:42:56 AM
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    My workout time is my play and relax time. A little gift to myself for working so hard the rest of the time. - 7/4/2013   8:26:04 AM
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    If I don't do strength training and stretching at least twice a week I notice aches and pains in my back and shoulders. Motivation! Cardio, especially walking fast, gives me energy and alertness. Motivation! Yoga (vinyasa) relieves stress. Unfortunately, I'm usually in denial about my stress level so I don't practice yoga as often as I should. - 7/4/2013   8:00:38 AM
    This blog really makes sense! A future positive effect will seem to far away when someone is trying to start something new today.

    What motivates me to exercise is to tell my friends here that I did it. :-D Many times I don't want to do it (I have MS and it is difficult) but then I think of my friends here and their troubles and how they are doing it and I feel motivated. When my fitness minutes go up, they congratulate me. Means a lot to me. - 7/4/2013   7:54:06 AM
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    I find that exercising is part of my life now. It is one of my most importatnt personnel tasks on my to do daily list. It is hard waking up at 4:30/5 am but once I complete my exercise I feel accomplished and proud of myself. When I exercise I feel like I am on the right road to sucess professionally and internally. I am very proud that I made my change in life style and included exercise as a main part of my change. It has been very hard. I am at 77.5 pounds lost, but it is not the pounds lost that matters, it is the way I feel internally. I am starting to like the way I look. I feel confident, attractive, happy and more sure of myself. I am not ascared of looking in the mirror. I socialize more. Exercise has brought so many positive things in my life. I thank God for giving me the strength to continue taking care of myself so that then I can take care of my family. - 7/4/2013   7:30:10 AM
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    There is no secret motivator that's going to work for everyone, right? And what motivates you today, may not a week, month, year from now... I like a short term goal. Something like an upcoming race, hockey tournament or pool party with friends. I get distracted easily and goals that are too long term I find hard to keep focused on. Whatever motivates us, the public accountability of out spark people community can help us all to stick to the goals we DO choose :) thank you sparkpeople!! - 7/4/2013   7:20:42 AM
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    I walk every day because it is therapy for me. When I am alone and walking, I find it a good time to pray. When I am with my walking partner, we talk and share. I started walking almost 10 years ago when my family was going through a very difficult time. It was the only way I could think of to deal with it all. I didn't walk fast as first, but I walked usually for an hour at a time. Little did I know that it would become such a part of my life! I also ride an exercise bike every day after having some minor knee surgery. My doctor told me to ride it every day for the rest of my life! Maybe, just maybe, I can avoid having knee replacement surgery down the road. - 7/4/2013   7:08:18 AM
  • JGRAY76
    I work out to keep the weight off, to look fit and so I can do more because I have more energy. I have a loooong row of roses that need to be trimmed twice a year. It used to be a gureling 2 day job to trim, pick up the branches, weed the garden and dispose of the waste. Now I can do it in one day and not even feel tired. More strength means chores like this become easier. - 7/4/2013   7:07:28 AM
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    I exercise because I have a pacemaker and want to keep my heart healthy. But what motivates me to exercise is the fact that I have a pacemaker and I CAN exercise. People just don't get what a blessing it is to be healthy enough to be able to exercise . - 7/4/2013   6:53:13 AM
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    Vanity. I didnt like how I looked when I was fat and I love how I look now. I love telling people about my triathlons and watching them be surprised. I'm sorry that makes me tres shallow compared to everyone else but its the truth. - 7/4/2013   6:05:30 AM

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