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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.
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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.