What Motivates You to Exercise?

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
5/10/2013 12:00 PM   :  293 comments   :  28,876 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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Comments

  • 243
    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
  • 242
    Exercising in the early morning wakes up my brain like no amount of coffee can do. - 7/4/2013   1:19:21 PM
  • 241
    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
  • 240
    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
  • 239
    I have more energy and am able to do the things I love! - 7/4/2013   12:58:35 PM
  • JOLA11
    238
    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
  • 237
    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
  • 236
    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
  • 234
    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
  • DMATTISON
    233
    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
  • MANDI_BEAR202
    232
    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
  • BERTIEGERTIE1
    231
    Have always loved the way it makes me feel! :-) - 7/4/2013   11:35:14 AM
  • ANDIRUNS1
    230
    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
  • 229
    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
  • 228
    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
  • 227
    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
  • 226
    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
  • 225
    Started to exercise more and more to reach the health, stress reliever, achieve self-confidence benefits. - 7/4/2013   10:48:59 AM
  • 224
    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
  • 223
    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
  • OOPSIEDAYZ45
    222
    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
    221
    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
  • 220
    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
  • 219
    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
  • 218
    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
  • MESSALINAV
    217
    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
  • 216
    "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
  • KSCHRAUT
    215
    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
  • 214
    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
  • 213
    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
  • 212
    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
  • 211
    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
  • 210
    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
  • 209
    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
    208
    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
  • 207
    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
  • 206
    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
  • 205
    I LOVE the energy it gives me, secondary to weight loss and fighting off age, plus it helps me think better, I worked out once after work for about an hour and a half and was so energized when I got home I made dinner, cleaned the stove did 2 loads of laundry and the dishes, plus the floor, nothing, I mean nothing can beat the energy that exercise gives you when you get down to the core of your muscle , and you get the added bonus of feeling happy. - 7/4/2013   5:58:51 AM
  • KITTYLOVE9
    204
    It was an easy choice either I need to keep moving or I will stop forever. The chronic pain of my arthritis was too much and I tell you I am now feeling so much better that I wonder why I didn't do this years ago. - 7/4/2013   5:55:45 AM
  • JANETEMILY
    203
    There have been times in my life when I didn't like exercising, but I've found just dieting doesn't work that well to lose weight. I enjoy walking, but last summer I adopted a Lab mix who LOVES to walk! If I am tempted to take a day off, she's so mopey, I go anyway.! It's my time to be alone, outdoors, with just her and my IPod!. Now that I'm in better shape, I started circuit training almost every day to burn those calories faster! - 7/4/2013   5:19:55 AM
  • 202
    Seeing weight loss results motivates me to keep going. I try to find workouts that are enjoyable or fun for me, so that I look forward to doing them. - 7/4/2013   4:08:52 AM
  • 201
    Long-term benefits is something you use to justify your workouts to others, mainly cause we've told about them day in and day out.
    However, in my opinion, they can't help you on a daily bases, just can't.
    So, to reach consistency you actually need both.
    Long-term just for general idea that you need to work out, without you won't.
    Short-term are more complicated and individual.
    I like the sweat and sense of accomplishment, basically the feeling you have after. And number, got to love the numbers:)

    So please, find yours ... haven't - don't stop and keep looking. - 7/4/2013   3:05:09 AM
  • 200
    I used to hate working out. But recently -- oh shock! -- I started enjoying it. Woohoo! I do it for many reasons: burning more calories, shaping my body, feeling of accomplishment, better sleep, better mood/endorphins. - 7/4/2013   2:18:09 AM
  • 199
    Both long- & short-term simultaneously. I feel happier when I'm exercising regularly--the endorphins do make a difference. And I want to be healthy for many years to come. - 7/4/2013   12:39:05 AM
  • 198
    My grandtwins turned 6 in February. I want to be around them for a long, long time. - 6/26/2013   10:48:34 AM
  • 197
    When I first started, my dog wanted to go for a walk. For the longest time, she walked me. Now, I get tired of sitting in my recliner. I usually leave the dog at home. She gets a shorter walk now and then during the day and usually makes me crazy. I have to stifle myself and say, it's her time, because she probably thought the same about me when I was lagging behind. - 6/22/2013   11:13:30 PM
  • 196
    It's simple: my motivation to exercise is so I can look good and be proud of me. Also, I honestly LOVE compliments! - 6/12/2013   3:42:14 AM
  • DEANYWALKER
    195
    "Working out is my play. It makes me feel great. I mix it up-biking, racecwalking, kayaking, elliptical, treadmill, and free weights and body resistant exercises. In the winter months the biking and kayaking are replaced with snow snowshoeing and xc sking. I keep mileage logs for my biking and racewalking and have weekly/monthly and yearly goals for each. Sometimes it is the goal that gets me out of the door. - 6/10/2013   9:37:45 PM
  • 194
    i love walking with my kids...it helps me and them .... - 6/3/2013   9:49:12 AM

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