How to Get Motivated to Exercise: 7 Ways to Inspire Yourself

Knowing about the benefits of exercise doesn’t necessarily mean we'll get off the couch and do it. So... here are 7 steps to help you get motivated to exercise.

get motivated to exercise

We may have the best intentions when it comes to exercise, but work, family, deadlines, and commitment can get in the way. Our post offers advice on how to get motivated to exercise.

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“I know exercise is good for me, but I just don’t have the motivation to do it.” Sound familiar? That’s a common complaint, and motivation is especially difficult when you feel depressed, anxious, or tired all the time. Sitting in front of the television or browsing the web to “numb” your emotions and shut everything else out seems much easier. However, try to think of exercise not as a chore but as a way of releasing your bogged-down emotions, tensions, and anxieties.

How to Get Motivated to Exercise

There are steps you can take to get back on the ball, and to find the initiative to start exercising regularly. Here, we offer seven practical steps to motivate you to exercise.

1. Don’t Let the Word “Exercise” Scare You

Exercise doesn’t mean running a marathon or spending countless hours at the gym. Anything that gets you off the couch and moving is exercise that can help improve your mood. Be creative and find something you enjoy doing. If you’re participating in an exercise routine that you absolutely loathe, it’s almost guaranteed you won’t stay consistent. Perhaps you enjoy swimming, bike riding, horseback riding, or bowling. Whatever it is, commit to making it part of your life.

2. Start slowly.

If you’ve been sedentary for too long, the key today is start out slowly and set small, realistic, and measurable goals. Be sure to write down your goals on a sheet of paper and keep track of your progress. Examples include:

  • I will walk for 20 minutes, four days per week.
  • I will join a bowling league and bowl at least two nights per week
  • I will get a 30-minute exercise video (or find one for free on YouTube) and perform this three days per week.

3. Boost your energy before exercising.

Take a B-complex vitamin one hour before you exercise, and/or drink a cup of green tea. B-vitamins and green tea will provide you an extra boost of energy that can help motivate you to get out and get going. And green tea will help enhance your metabolism as well as increase your endorphins so you can get the most out of your workout.

4. Be flexible with your exercise routine.

You don’t have to do your exercises all at once. If you can take 10-minute “exercise breaks” a few days a week, it will help you get motivated to to exercise. In other words, instead of sedentary breaks from that report you’re writing or research you’re doing for work, take an exercise break—go for a brisk walk, do some calisthenics, or climb some flights of stairs.

You also can incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Park farther from the entrance at work or the store, take stairs instead of the elevator, go for walks several times per day, or play a game that involves physical activity. Continue to keep track of the time on paper so you can monitor your progress. Set a goal to do 20 to 30 minutes of exercise three to five times per week.

5. Exercise at the right times of day.

If you have problems with insomnia, know that exercising within five hours of bedtime may further interrupt your sleep, since exercise will stimulate your endorphins. If falling and staying asleep are a problem for you, try to exercise in the morning or afternoon.

6. Get support from a friend.

Find a friend who will motivate you, and if possible, work out with you. Make a set schedule of your workout times together and hold each other accountable.

7. Reward yourself.

After tracking your progress each month, reward your good efforts. If a friend is working out with you, the two of you can claim your reward together—go to a movie, for example. And, if you’ve been wondering how to get motivated to exercise, remember the biggest reward is that you’ll start feeling and looking better, and you’ll improve your health both now and in the future. So, ensure quality time with your friends and loved ones and get moving!

Share Your Experience

Have you tried these or other tips to motivate yourself to exercise? If so, tell us about it by leaving a comment below. Let’s inspire each other to get healthy!

Originally published on in 2012, this post has been updated by the editors of University Health News.

As a service to our readers, University Health News offers a vast archive of free digital content. Please note the date published or last update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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Kathleen Jade, ND

Dr. Kathleen Jade is a naturopathic physician and served for many years as the Medical Director and Editor-In-Chief of Natural Health Advisory Institute. She has been licensed as a primary … Read More

View all posts by Kathleen Jade, ND

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  • Read your article on Kava and was excited so I went online and purchased some. In reading about it further I saw some rather disturbing medical warnings about Kava and liver problems, some which involved complete liver failure due to taking only a small amount of Kava. Love that you are staying on top of natural alternatives but wish you would have done some further research and known about or at least posted the risks involved. I am a naturally curious person so will read up on things but most people will just take your word for it that it is “natural” which can often be erroneously translated into “safe” when in fact Kava has been banned in many countries. Unfortunately, it was too late to cancel my order so I will need to eat the loss.

  • There were some reports of rare liver damage associated with the intake of acetone and alcohol extracts of Kava in the late 1990s; the incidence was calculated at less than one case per million daily doses. [1,2] When researchers analyzed those rare cases, it was suggested that the liver problems may have been caused by the use of poor quality raw materials, such as mold-contaminated kava, and/or due to an idiosyncratic reaction (rather than a direct toxic effect).[3,4] Since then, numerous double blind, controlled human studies using kava extracts have been conducted in the US, Europe, and Australia, and no adverse effects, including effects on liver function, have ever occurred.[5,6] Nevertheless, some current practitioners recommend the use of water extracts of Kava root, such as Kava Forte from MediHerb, rather than alcohol extract to perhaps further reduce this risk.[7] If you do use kava for more than 6 weeks, whether it be a water extract or an alcohol extract, some practitioners recommend a blood test for liver function every few months and discontinuation if abnormal readings occur.[7] It is also recommended that people with a history of excessive alcohol consumption and those taking potentially hepatotoxic drugs use caution, while people with pre-existing liver damage, children, and do not use Kava. [7]
    1. Bone KM, Mills SY. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. 2nd Edn, Elsevier, UK, 2013.
    2. Mills S, Bone K (eds). The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety. Elsevier Churchill Livingstone, St Louis, 2005.
    3. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2012 Feb;73(2):170-4.
    4. Phytother Res. 2013 Mar;27(3):472-4.
    5. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2013 Oct;33(5):643-8.
    6. Phytother Res. 2013 Nov;27(11):1723-8.
    7. Phytotherapist Perspective. 2013 June;48:1-3.

  • Point 1: To stay motivated, I visualize how I will feel later in the day. If I complete my workout, I know that I will feel good about having done so, even if other things don’t go so well during the day.
    Point 2: Since exercise benefits come about gradually over time, it is important to visualize one’s self months or even years into the future. The good thing about exercise is that its benefits are guaranteed…not many health improvement stategies can make such a claim. Keeping this in mind helps with Point 1…that is to say that it helps one feel good about completing each day’s workout.

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