My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

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This Wednesday: Tips…for staying motivated to exercise.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Tips…for staying motivated to exercise.

I keep myself motivated to exercise by reminding myself of all the benefits. Personally, I find I’m more motivated by short-term gratifications like “I’ll feel more cheerful” or “I’ll sleep better” than long-term considerations like “I’ll live longer” or “If I have surgery, I’ll recover quicker.” (See the post for May 23 if you want tips for making yourself exercise.)

1. Remember, exercise for SANITY not VANITY. If you’re exercising only to lose weight, it’s easy to get discouraged. Exercise for other reasons, and you’re more likely to stick to it. And it is true that people who exercise regularly tend to be far more successful at maintaining weight loss.

2. Exercise boosts energy. It took me a long time to notice that I’d drag myself to the gym, work out for forty minutes, and leave feeling far more energetic than when I went in.

3. Exercise provides an outlet for feelings of pent-up hostility, irritation, and anger. I always find that I’m more even-tempered on days when I’ve exercised. Negative emotions require a lot of energy.

4. The consistent, repetitive motion of exercises like walking and running brings a serene mood and clarifies thinking. I’ve had all my best writing ideas when walking or running, and sometimes assign myself a particular problem to think over during a walk.

5. Yoga is relaxing and calming. I do yoga regularly, but must confess I don’t empty my mind, meditate, or find it a particularly spiritual endeavor. But I know that many people find those aspects of yoga the most valuable.

6. Sticking to an exercise regime raises your self-esteem for the very fact that you’re sticking to an exercise regime.

7. Exercise offers a chance to be alone and uninterrupted—a relief if, like me, you’re often surrounded by distractions. Of course, exercise also offers a chance to get together with other people.

8. When you experiences stress, your body prepares for “fight or flight” with a huge number of biochemical reactions. A stressful event these days, however, is more likely to require a phone call than a sprint uphill. The potentially damaging byproducts of the stress response, such as cortisol, nevertheless continue to pump through the body. Regular exercise helps to ameliorate these effects.

9. Some people get a “runner’s high,” but even those who, like me, never get quite that euphoric nevertheless get a huge boost in mood from frequent exercise.

10. Exercise helps you fall asleep more easily and sleep more deeply.

11. People who exercise handle old age better: they move more easily and energetically. I think a lot about how to set myself up now to be in good shape much later.

12. I make exercise more satisfying by considering the pleasure of being able to work out easily and without pain—no wheelchair, no crutches, no brace, no trick knee or bad back.