Poll: Why do YOU exercise?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
There are lots of good reasons why people exercise. We all know that itís something we should do because itís good for our health, helps us stay active and enjoy life longer, and burns extra calories for weight loss or weight maintenance.

But most people who are successful at sticking to an exercise program over time also have more individual reasons for exercising. Often, itís these more personal reasons that actually get people up and moving on those days when just knowing they should do it doesnít get the job done.

My personal reasons for exercising have gone through some changes over the past few years.

I started out exercising because it didnít seem like I had much choice. Even walking was difficult for me, at almost 400 pounds, so it definitely wasnít because I enjoyed it. I felt like the only alternative was to let myself continue morphing into an enormous lump of flesh that couldnít move even if I wanted to.

But as I started making progress on weight loss and getting more mobile, and graduated from shuffling along the sidewalk to stationary bike riding and even the elliptical machine, I got interested in seeing just how far I could go. I started playing little ďgamesĒ with myself during my exercise sessions, to see if I could go faster or further than the last time, lift more weight, or burn more calories. This, plus the fact that I started actually feeling better both physically and emotionally, kept me going for over a yearóand watching those burned calories add up and the weight come off was pretty cool, too.

Then I hit a pretty long and frustrating plateau in my weight loss, and began to lose interest in going to the gym every day to do more or less the same old things. I tried some different exercises, like swimming and group classes, but the spark was definitely gone. Then, luckily, a friend introduced me to the mountain in the picture above (Camelback Mountain in Phoenix), and I suddenly had a new passion in life: getting myself to the top of that beast without having to stop for a rest. That took me about 4 months of climbing 3-4 times per week, and also turned me into a hiking junky. Since then, Iíve been hiking regularly 2-3 times per week, and Iím always on the lookout for new trails to try out. Iíve also taken up outdoor biking, to give my feet a rest from hiking several times per week. Biking is also my main mode of transportation these days, as I donít have a car and hope to avoid needing to have one for a while longer, at least.

I think part of the appeal of hiking for me was that it is just so different from anything I had done before, and also so different from anything I really expected to enjoy or want to do. It still amazes me to look at some fairly big hill or mountain and know that Iíve hiked to the top of itóand to remember that a few years ago, I couldnít walk up two flights of stairs.

These days, my main regret is that I waited until I was over 50 to do something about my weight, my health, and my fitness. Iím having some problems like neuropathy in my feet and arthritis that are starting to limit what I can do now, and these problems are directly related to the smoking, drinking, and sitting around I did for way too many years. So, if you need a good object lesson in why you shouldnít make your healthy lifestyle a lower priority than a lot of other things that require your attention, here I am.

Anyway, I guess I have several reasons for continuing to keep up a regular exercise routine. In order of importance, they are:

  • the pleasure of being outdoors in inspiring settings; it's a big part of my spiritual life.

  • the satisfaction of doing things I never expected or thought I could do.

  • the satisfaction of pushing myself to do something physically and emotionally challenging when it would be easy not to.

  • the reward of burning lots of calories so I can eat what I want without panicking about regaining weight.

    So, whatís your story? What challenges do you have to overcome to stay more physically active, and how do you handle them? What keeps you motivated to exercise or be active when life makes it harder to do that? What do you like to do the most?

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    Dean, thank you for your article. Report
    I spent the majority of my adult life over weight and unable to be active and just enjoy everyday life. I was bitter and uninvolved. I have found new energy and life. I enjoy so many more things with my kids and family. I am stronger and happy with a new way of looking at things. I get energy and stress relief from exercise that helps me keeps things more balanced than they were before I started. I don't have the pain in my feet and knees that I use to fight everyday. So many benefits. Report
    i have found a renewed happiness in working out when my sister got a nasty cold and gave it to my boyfriend and almost everyone else at her halloween party except me. my boyfriend rarely gets sick and having worked with kids for 6 years i rarely get sick too. lately i just get sick whenever he gets sick. but since ive been working out and eating healthy for a few months i completely missed the cold my sister was spreading. im so happy about it. it was a bad one too. Report
    I will not be the first to say it-- I HATE EXERCISING. Would I rather be sitting on the couch watching TV with a bag of Oreos-- you betcha. But I know that sitting on the couch eating said oreos is not going to make me healthy. The oreos will be the cause of disease rather than the cure. The non movement is not giving my cells the much needed oxygen that it needs to survive. Do I exercise for weight loss or getting fit? No, not anymore. I exercise because cancer hates oxygen as do many other diseases. Frankly, I haven't been sick in almost 14 months. Do I attribute it to my exercising? No, not entirely. I attribute it to not missing my regular chiropractic adjustments, eating clean (you will find little to no processed food in my house), getting good sleep, and knowing WHY I am doing this.
    I could easily stop exercising, but why? My body likes it. I could stop eating healthy, but I never want to feel that way again. I could stop my adjustments but then I would be like everyone else and be sick. I would rather have 100% function of body, mind and spirit. Report
    I exercise because it makes me much happier than not exercising. Report
    I am striving for functional fitness - able to be moderately active with ease. I am nearing 58. I don't want a bikini body. I don't mind looking my age, but I want to look good for my age. So nothing enormous, just being comfortable with, and in, my body. Report
    I exercise because I'm not here to "lose weight" as my goal. I'm here to get healthy and fit. Fitness without exercise is impossible.

    I exercise because fitness results are direct and obvious. I'm not depending on a scale that shows me a number that is 25-40% what I want to know about and 60-75% what I don't need to track as closely. I'm depending on whether I can do something better, longer, faster, tougher, heavier, with less effort in good form. Report
    I am a great believer in endorphins!!!! Report
    I exercise because I love how I fell and how I look afterward. M-W-F at the gym, T-Th yoga and a 6 mile jog on Sat & Sun. Keeps me sane and feeling great! Report
    I exercise because it makes me ridiculously happy.
    During workouts I lose myself in the moment, and all stress falls away.
    I love challenging myself and pushing my limits; reaching exercise related goals makes me feel powerful and more confident.

    I also believe we as humans are designed to move :D Report
    I'm one of those rare people that are not allowed to exercise because I'm underweight. I am allowed to take a 15 minute walk each day and sometimes, I do a little ballet because it makes me feel good but having said that, even if I followed the doctor's instructions and didn't exercise until I'd gained some weight, I have a one year old grandson who runs around like the roadrunner so I'm always chasing after him thus burning up any calories I've many to put on so it's a no win situation which is why I do the walking and ballet. Report
    It is definitely a stress buster for me. Report
    I exercise becuase it makes me feel good and that i am actually doing something and not sitting around all the time. Also, its better to exercise now than wait till i cant do it. Report
    I exercise because I know that if I don't, I will end up back where I started (at 300+ pounds!) Report
    Please Don't Laugh... I remind my-self all the time "Why" I started to Exercise...
    It was because of my FAT ELBOWS...I hated the feel of them and it told me it was time to do 'something'-- Take Control before I hit the Big-Weight Up On The Scale's...I would look at people, that had a few pounds on them; and all I could see was--Fat Elbows... and I know I never did say a word to any body about this issue that I had... but even today...I wonder why they don't see it and feel it to.... themselves...but that is all it really took to stir me up to do "something" any- thing will do...just do it and get thin and get the weight off those "Elbows" of my body....Forgive me If this seems shallow but I just could't take it any-more...I had to do "Someting" ---so I join "Sparkpeople" Web Site and now I exercise all the time and just love it...Now when I feel my "Elbows" I feel thin...Woo Hoo.....Woo Hoo.... Report
    I exercise for the health benefits
    I exercise for the spiritual and emotional benefits
    I exercise as an example for my son
    I exercise so I will not become a diabetic, with high blood pressure, that has lost balance and flexibility and afraid to leave the house. Report
    I exercise because it is a natural anti-depressant for me. I exercise because it makes my exercise-induced asthma not so bad (something I wish I knew when I was in middle school and shirked any running activities for fear of an asthma attack!). I exercise because it worked for me 6 years ago to lose 40 pounds in 6 months, and I need to lose 80 now. Report
    Why I exercise......
    It makes me feel better mentally and physically.
    It reduces my stress level, I can sort out my problems whilst on the elliptical listening to some great music.
    Puts me in a more positive mood:)
    It is something that my teenage daughter and I can do together.
    Jayne Report
    I had done alot of damage to my body and it was taking a tole on it tremendously. After going through my last surgery, I promised myself and God that I would take care of ME! I am now exercising at least 5 days a week. I have gotten lots of co-workers and friends involved, which means that I can always call on someone to go for a walk or to a class with me. I keep an exercise bag with me at all times so I am always prepared when the opportunity presents itself. I love to just move more, it doesn't matter what type, except yoga! I love the idea of living longer, being able to do more with my granddaughter, and even be able to wear my teenagers jeans. It is so wonderful!! Report
    My body needs exercise. Without it, I'll be miserable in my life and especially in my older years. My grandparents are having difficulties right now, and it's because they didn't take care of themselves. My biggest motivation is not wanting to be like that. Report
    it's fun! I love to ride my bike, dance, whatever. Also the dogs love long walks and I enjoy taking them. If I sit around for too long, I start to feel like a slug. Ick. Report
    Because of the health benefits. I think I'm becoming a junkie. It has helped me lose weight, it has helped me tone up. I am no longer stiff. I have more energy. I'm more flexible. My clothes fit better (smaller sizes fit better) and the list goes on. Report
    I started exercising to lose weight and get healthy. I chose to ride my bike to work, so it quickly became part of my routine and forced me to keep at it regularly. Now, I love it! I exercise now because I love the energy it gives me. I love being healthy, strong and fit. I like overcoming the challenges I set for myself, and external challenges. I have to give blood every two weeks because my body can't process iron. Because of that I'm very anemic. I also have some pain in my joints. But I don't let any of that stop me! I'm proud of that too. I'm more fit now than I have ever been in my life, and I love that feeling.

    I, like coach Dean have had my reasoning in regards to exercise change over the past 3 1/2 years. Like he said, in the beginning, exercise was a means to an end, something that I knew I had to do. But somewhere along the way, exercise has become my passion, something that gives me great satisfaction and pride. I never feel beautiful except when I'm pumping iron or spinning and see the sweat dripping off my newly found muscles. There really is nothing that makes be feel so powerful and proud of where I am now and how far I've come(losing over 140 lbs). I also regret daily wasting so much time before getting fit and healthy! Report
    I just love the way I feel when I'm finished working out. I feel energized. It's my caffiene when I'm feeling tired and sluggish. Plus, I love seeing what my body can do and challenging myself regularly! Report
    Thanks, this is a great blog! I love exercising and I do it to be healthy and to set an example for others. Also, it is an amazing stress reducer and so empowering for me! Report
    I love to walk. I also love to hike on local trails, I find nature so healing. Sometimes it's a bit more like a stroll though, if I bring my daughter along, as she's only 3 and fascinated with the woods! She can walk almost 2km on her own though. I also like yoga. Report
    I love to walk and use my airstepper. I also love to dance but don't as much as I should. Report
    The reason I continue to exercise, is because I don't want to feel like the fat person that everybody stares at (which might only be in my head). Although eating right is very important to weight loss, exercise actually makes me feel like I'm doing something that is actively affecting my weight loss. Now that I've become regular, I even exercise for fun, like when I'm bored. I feel better and more awake during the day. Report
    keeps me sane Report
    I have started to exercise to better my health picture. I am 200lbs and 5'3". I do not like how I have let myself go and it affects my mental wellbeing. I want to be happy. I do not want to neglect myself anymore. :-) Report
    Feels awesome to exercise and makes me feel awesome about myself. I sleep better, my mood is better, and I feel really energetic. Report
    I just love to move-dancing, walking, running when my knees allow. I so want to stay mobile as I get older. Zumba is my favorite exercise of the moment but I am beginning to appreciate pushups! Report
    I joined Sparkpeople to lose weight and get healthier. I followed the program and began increasing my activity. It made me aware of how much I had stopped moving. I really found it helpful to read articles on comparing foods to the amount of time an activity took to burn it off. Exercise helps keep my happiness level higher and has increased my energy level, too. Those are just two of the benefits of exercise that I don't want to live without. Report
    Living in Arizona is a plus for us fortunate enough to be here. When I read your article I could identify. Although I didn't lose as much weight (only 55lbs), being around the same age, I have the same motivation. I don't mountain bike, but ride one as opposed to a street bike. I didn't get to ride ALL week, and am praying this a.m. to be beautiful and wind FREE to get in my 20 miles (I started with 2, and played the "turn bay" game!). Report
    I started to exercise 3 years ago because I realized I had gained so much weight that I couldn't put on shorts or pants that used to fit. I knew I had to stop and get control of my eating and become more active to lose the weight I gained. I joined a gym and got a trainer. My trainer taught me how to use everything in a gym besides just the treadmill. The more I learned, the less intimidated I was by it all. I learned to loved working out. I find it fun and energizing. It's my most favorite activity. In the course of my training, I did a lot of things I had never tried or done before and was doing them quite well. That feeling of accomplishment keeps me motivated to keep trying new things and reaching new levels. I like the challenges. I like the way I feel when I exercise. I like feeling looking and feelin strong and the sculpted look my body now has. I want to keep it this way. Can now slide on my shorts and pants wear my shorts and pants. I like the fact muscle has replaced the fat. Considering I've never been known to be athletic or done anything athletic, my whole life, I'm more fit now in my mid-50s than when I was in my 20s. I like being fit and strong and doing things I didn't think I could do. Report
    I like the energy & pride it gives me :) Report
    It makes me feel good. Report
    I am exercising because I like it now and I enjoy the second hand benefits. Report
    Like the author, I too have a bicycle as my main mode of transportation. I do not own a car, I get a ton of exercise just by doing my daily routine. I get a lot of comments about how other people could never make the commitment that I have made. It is a commitment, but when you make it a routine, it no longer feels like a struggle. Other than these weird snowy March days we have had lately, I get up and ride most days. I actually tend to be more productive at work and feel better throughout the day because of my early morning activities. One day maybe I will decide I want to go hiking, it might be fun, I am curious about it. Report
    exercise to improve health is my primary goal. Weight loss and control is part of that goal. Report
    Wow! So many comment and so many different reasons to exercise. I guess that is the point right there. Great blog. I like how he says how his own reasons for exercising have gone through some changes over the course of his fitness journey. This seems to be true with most people. It might start out because you feel you have to workout. Then, you find you are working out because you are enjoying the better sleep and how it helps alleviate stress. Before you realize it, you are becoming healthy and fit! Now, you are working out because it is part of who you have become and you like how you feel. As a healthy and fit person, you workout because it has become a regular part of your day. Bottom line, we all have our reasons and they are subject to change over the course of our journey. Thanks for the great blog! Report
    I'm excercising now because I need to lose weight and want to dance again. Not the holding hands swirl a couple of times and get tired, but the dance to every song until last call. Report
    Right now I exercise because it feels good to move, even when the arthritis is painful and the feet hurt. It's almost a defiant urge not to give in at this point. Like the author, I didn't take care of myself all that well until I started to feel my mortality. Today I ate creamed spinach for lunch and thought I must be an alien in my own body because I liked it. Report
    I exercise to stay healthy first. Stress is out the door. Guilt over something I should not have eaten is gone. Also, the time when I am exercising seems to be the only time when no one bothers me. I am in my own little world where I can disapear, listen to my mp3 player and read whatever I want in peace and quiet. Report
    I am exercising to be more healthy and to avoid being a diabetic which runs in my family!! Report
    When I can't seem to control the circumstances that are happening in my life right now, due to the economy...The one thing I can do is take good care of myself, by exercising and eating right. Taking charge of my body makes me feel powerful! Report
    Oh, I forgot to mention to get some fresh air. I'm a full time student, so I rarely ever do workout videos. I try to do my cardio outdoors. Report
    To boost my mood and energy and to stay fit. Report
    I exercise because I want to maintain my muscles and keep my heart and lungs healthy. Weight training and swimming are my staples and I feel great after a workout. In between times I walk my big dog. I would like to try out the bike trails if my husband ever lets me buy a bike. Report
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