Fitness Articles

The Worst Reasons to Work Out

Stay Motivated by Exercising for the Right Reasons

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We all have our own reasons for working out. And while all reasons have merit (and there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel good about the reflection you see in the mirror), some reasons for hitting the gym are definitely better and more motivating than others.

In fact, the goals you set and the reasons why you work out help set the tone for your entire lifestyle and can even play a role in your long-term health and success. Of course, it is recommended that you choose empowering and uplifting reasons to lose weight and work out.

Here are five common reasons people exercise that might seem positive at first glance but can actually be unhealthy or destructive. If you fall into one (or more) of these categories, don't despair! We have included better reasons to work out that will help you flip your thoughts into a more motivating direction.

The 5 Worst Reasons to Work Out

Because you feel fat. Do you hit the gym hard the morning after a night of unhealthy eating to help you undo the previous night's damage? While a good bout of exercise can get you back on track, what you don't want to do is punish yourself with exercise. Working out shouldn't feel like torture or used as a way to right your wrongs when it comes to food. When you do that, you're completely missing how awesome exercise is for your health and well-being—and you could be on a slippery slope that leads to more serious food and fitness issues (such as exercise bulimia).
Better reason: Exercise to feel strong and energetic. Instead of punishing yourself by overdoing your workouts, focus on how great exercise makes you feel. From feeling strong and energetic to perking up your mood and improving your health, moving your body is more than a way to burn calories—it helps you take care of yourself inside and out!
To eat whatever you want. If your sole motivation to work out is to help make up for your regular fast food or dessert habit, it's time to re-examine your priorities. Sure, working out can allow you to offset the calories of indulging in more food, but it's much easier to overeat calories than it is to burn them off. In fact, it takes about an hour of jogging to burn off just one Big Mac (and that doesn't include the fries and soda). Not to mention that exercise can't always undo the negative health effects of a poor diet. Sweets and other junk foods don't give you all the vitamins and minerals you need to reach your fitness goals, either.
Better reason: Exercise to indulge occasionally in your favorite treats. Instead of exercising to eat whatever you want, think of it as a way to support your healthy lifestyle by boosting your health and happiness—not trying to outsmart a bad diet. You'll still be able to enjoy a treat now and again without worrying so much about the extra calories, but the key is to make those treats occasional—not the norm. Continued ›
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About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites, and A certified personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and is the author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (Random House, 2014).

See all of Jenn's articles.

Member Comments

  • I can see the author's point, but I don't think it needs to be published, since it's simply her opinion. IMHO, any reason a person has that gets them to exercise is a good one. Any motivation to get off the couch and turn off the TV to get moving is good.

    I really don't like focusing on the negative, and telling people why they shouldn't exercise is a big negative for me - and it's DEMOTIVATING!!!!

    There are some days that I don't want to exercise, but I force myself to do it. So, I don't need another person telling me that I am exercising for the wrong reasons. - 12/3/2015 2:14:53 PM
    I say so what if I started to exercise for the wrong reason, at least I am exercising and may change my reasons to better ones as I feel better and look better. - 11/23/2015 9:49:03 AM
  • Didn't find this very motivating, but then not sure that was the point. I work out b/c it gets my mind off other things. I exercise to find some time alone to process. I exercise to lose weight. When playing the guitar burns as much calories as traditional exercise, I'll do it for other reasons. - 11/13/2015 9:22:40 AM
  • I do wish people would stop saying "find an activity you like and do it". The activities I like are reading, playing the piano and singing. I don't enjoy exercising. I do it because I have to and I loathe every minute of it. - 7/6/2015 10:39:28 AM
  • I would counter that there's no such thing as a bad reason to exercise. - 2/23/2015 8:40:17 AM
  • While I agree that these shouldn't be long term reasons to exercise - in the begining any reason that gets you started is worth it! - 5/13/2014 9:35:54 AM
  • Wow, I think I'm guilty of pretty much all of those ... - 7/23/2013 9:12:41 AM
  • Well, there go all my reasons to work out. - 7/19/2013 1:05:47 AM
    I completely agree with this article. Superficial reasons have never really motivated me to keep up a long-term workout routine. Knowing the positive feelings that it brings me and how it affects my health is what keeps me going.

    I used to work out to look good, but if that was my true motivation, I would not have stopped exercising and let myself gain weight. It wasn't until I noticed how it improved my posture (I have scoliosis) and had less back pain that I knew how important it was for me to continue working out.

    Give yourself positive reasons to exercise instead of negative ones that only motivate you by instilling fear within you. You will find that you look forward to your workouts instead of feeling like it's a chore that you have to get over with.

    Pick an activity that you actually enjoy doing. Don't go running just because someone tells you it works for them. Ask yourself....what works for me? Pick an activity you love to do and will look forward to doing it. If you don't enjoy it, you will not stick with it! - 3/16/2013 2:15:44 PM
    This was the least motivating article I could read after waking up early on a Saturday morning for once. Every reason is a good reason to better yourself. - 3/16/2013 7:57:29 AM
    OMG! Those are primarily the reasons why I exersize! I'd only add one maintain some semblence of sanity. - 3/16/2013 6:44:25 AM
  • Funny - I do use almost all those excuses/reasons. About the only one I don't use is the one about 'burning off Big Macs" ... though I might exercise, or at least walk, after eating something greasy and heavy just to help digest it. But it is one of my go-to choices whenever I need to make a change in the now. - 3/16/2013 6:01:13 AM
  • KRS1984
    If people are exercising for the "wrong reasons", at least they are exercising! I agree that it needs to be done for yourself and for your health, but it is also nice to do it for other people too. If you are married, I know your spouse would like a fit body to look at rather than a butterball. (Just saying. BTW, I'm a little on the round side too, so don't think I'm being judgmental.) - 8/9/2012 11:01:58 PM
  • Yikes. Life is short, people. If you really don't enjoy the exercise, it's the wrong exercise ... Try something else. Try just incorporating more movement into things you already do rather than torturing yourself with official "workouts" that you hate. For instance, you can set up a computer with an extra keyboard/trackbal
    l or mouse so you can stand sometimes while reading, and maybe get a little walk in place exercise at the same time. My monitor is easy to adjust upward, just pull it up and pull it down. I find that it helps to put my extra trackball on top of a quart container for comfort standing. I do this while proofreading my work, and it really helps me keep focused and more accurate (more oxygen to the brain, maybe...). I sit down whenever I want and while standing, keep moving when I want and just stand when I want. I also enjoy walking in place (especially a simple side step) while reading or talking on my cell phone or watching tv or playing with a cat. The neighbors probably think I'm nuts because I do this even while we're outside (my pruning technique is to pull off a long piece of greenery to waggle at the cats...) Just standing to talk on a phone or read etc. (if you're afraid coworkers will send for the strait jacket if they see you bouncing around) will burn more calories in a day and make a sedentary job much easier on the body. Look for massage sandals or shoe inserts - they really help the circulation. I looked at a Leslie Sansone video to get more ideas for more steps (Walk at Home series, there's a free demo available at various web sites) but mainly just wing it. If I feel the need for more of a boost, I'll use one of her mp3's - but as an enjoyable activity to boost up my energy, not something I must do. I also like to use a 6" step thing sometimes as the closest thing to a "workout" I'm ever gonna get.... it does get my heart rate up and feels good. I tried out the idea on the staircase, but I really like to do it in front of the tv, just as long as I want (usually about 15 minutes). I do have an old Power Rider... - 7/8/2012 3:52:53 PM
  • I think one reason, that absolutely should be there, is that people exercise because they are trying to impress a girl or a guy. They're getting 'skinny' and 'buff' so that the person they like would notice them.

    Better reason? People should do it for themselves. Not others. You want to be better because you want to. Not because somebody should pay attention to you. You shouldn't change for others. - 7/4/2012 9:20:34 AM

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