See if this scenario sounds familiar: you decide it's time to move your health forward, once and for all. You choose a program that makes sense for where you want to take your health and fitness, and you dive in head first. For a week--or maybe even two--everything is going well.
Then, motivation wanes, and the thoughts of "I'll just start again on Monday" start to creep in.
If this sounds like your experience with motivation to exercise, you're not alone. Many people find themselves searching terms like "how to keep yourself motivated" and "ways to motivate yourself to workout" in hopes of finding a secret key to make them want to get moving again.
Here, we'll go over some tips and tricks for setting goals that you'll keep working toward even when motivation wanes, look over the benefits of exercise for your mind and body, and dig into some simple tactics you can use to keep your body moving for the long haul.
Why does exercise matter? Motivation for lifting weights, doing cardio, and more
When you've been out of the habit of working out for a while, it can be easy to forget how great working out makes you feel. Both the immediate and long-term benefits of working out mean that getting sweaty a few times a week is well worth your while.
Immediate benefits of exercise include:
- Improved brain health, including reduction of anxiety
- Improved sleep
- Reduced blood pressure
- Improved academic performance due to increased focus and memory
In addition to the benefits of exercise that you feel right after your workout, it's also important to keep in mind the benefits that you'll experience over time.
Long-term benefits of exercise can include:
- Regulation of body weight
- Increased bone strength
- Increased cardiovascular health
- Reduced risk of depression
- Reduced risk of chronic disease (including type 2 diabetes)
Setting the right goals
Sometimes, understanding the benefits of exercise isn't quite enough to inspire us to get moving. Setting a goal that's specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound--also known as a SMART goal--can keep you moving even when your initial motivation begins to fade.
Let's take a look at each facet of setting a SMART goal.
Goals like "lose weight" or "get fit" sound good in theory, but there's no way to know when you've achieved your goal. When you choose a specific goal--such as getting to a certain body fat percentage, being able to run a specific distance, or going for a walk every night after dinner--you're able to stay motivated as you see yourself checking goals off, one by one.
When setting your goal, be sure you have a measurable outcome you're working toward, such as getting a specific number of workouts in each week or meeting your step goal a certain number of days in the month. Using a fitness tracker is a simple way to measure your daily movement.
Setting your sights high is fantastic--but you want to make sure that your goal is achievable. Sometimes, setting massive goals--like running a marathon or losing 50 pounds--can deter motivation, as they feel insurmountable. Breaking down a large goal into smaller goals can work wonders to keep you on track. For example, if you'd eventually like to run a marathon, the first step toward your goal might be going for a 20-minute run four times each week after work.
If you're not sure what an appropriate goal is for your fitness level, talking with your doctor or a certified personal trainer can be a great start to give you some ideas. Work to create a goal that's at the nexus of challenge and ability--you want a goal that's tough, but by no means impossible.
Your goal only needs to matter to one person: you. When choosing a SMART goal, be sure that it has importance in your life. For example, if you're not interested in running, clocking a 5K in under 25 minutes probably isn't going to motivate you to get your workouts in. Health-related goals are often a good fit: for example, setting a goal to lower your blood pressure, to move away from a pre-diabetic status, or to get to improve your cardiovascular function can help.
It's important to give yourself a deadline when it comes to achieving your goal. This can help you stay on track on the days you don't quite feel like getting to work. Marking your deadline on a calendar can help you stay committed.
Staying motivated to work out: Switch it up
Tired of your standard routine? Trying something new to get your heart rate moving can be a great way to shake it up and stay motivated. If you typically go for daily walks, trying a fitness class with a friend can allow you to socialize and challenge your body in a new way.
If you enjoy exercising outdoors, changing your workout to go with the seasons can be the perfect way to both utilize different muscles and keep your mind interested in your workouts. Swimming in the summer, hiking in the fall, getting bundled up and taking the dog for a walk in the winter--all of these options can help you enjoy the benefits of fresh air while keeping you motivated to include healthy movement in your day.
When it comes to staying on track toward your health and fitness goals, it's vital to develop a solid support network. Working out with like-minded friends can both give you the support you need to stay on track and motivate you to stick to your movement schedule, even on days where you'd rather curl up on the couch. Simply setting up a group at work to remind one another to drink water during the day can help you move toward your goals. Online workout communities can also be a fun way to interact with others who are working to get moving.
Evidation: Wellness data that moves you forward
At Evidation, we don't just give you the health data you need to understand where you're starting--we meet you where you're at and reward you for moving forward. Download the app today to learn how you can put your health data to work.