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.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • lea

    exercise is the best, cheapest drug around: it saves me everyday. and yet it is very tough to separate the idea of exercise’s benefits from all the issues of vanity, etc., and this is why i am having trouble convincing someone i love deeply that it is in his best interests to, periodically, move around a bit. i am not saying, you’re not hot. i’m saying, baby don’t you want to live to be 100? unfortunately, regular sex plus daily walks from the cab to the restaurant do not constitute an “exercise regimen.” sports is a better way to get at it, i think. tennis and touch football are certainly more manly than the elipticon, or whatever the hell the thing’s called. yet sports are tough in the city. i’m annoying myself with how boring this post is.

  • http://bedouina.typepad.com Leila

    I’m a two year breast cancer survivor in my early 40s, mother of two young children. I was somewhat active before diagnosis and in decent shape, but I rarely made time for exercise then, just figuring that chasing my then pre-schoolers was exercise enough.
    Now that I’ve been through surgery and chemo and come out the other side, I pay attention to risk factors for survivors. One of them is exercise or the lack of it. A study came out last year that said that moderate exercise was as effective as hormone therapy in preventing cancer deaths in women who had had breast cancer. walking a total of 3 hours a week cuts the mortality rate of breast cancer survivors by FIFTY PERCENT. Yes.
    No better motivation than that. I told my family (and myself) that we have to look at my exercise sessions as if they were my Tamoxifen pills – not optional.

  • http://perfectiononacurve.com Autumn

    re #12: those of us who aren’t so lucky are just happy we can still move some :)
    There’s two sides to that coin. I’m glad you think to be greatful for it now – so that it doesn’t have to happen to you for you to be.

  • http://www.stevefarber.com Steve Farber

    Very timely advice for me…thanks! Now all I have to do is memorize each point and repeat them as a mantra everytime I get to whining about going to the gym.

  • http://backbebetter.blogspot.com txdave22

    I have a fairly new blog about relieving back, neck and shoulder pain through articles and information on exercise, yoga and back products.
    I was wondering if you would like to swap links?
    thnks dave
    http://backbebetter.blogspot.com

  • http://www.naturalmomstalkradio.com Carrie

    #3 is it for me. I have 4 kids who are home all day homeschooling, and I NEED to exercise. I found a gym with free kid care, the kids love the change of pace and I get to …. most important benefit of all… SHOWER. ALONE. FOR AS LONG AS I WANT… now that’s happiness. :)

  • Bruce Thomson

    I agree about exercise. I do almost too much of it, for all those reasons. (‘Swim 1km sometimes, jog half an hour, weights every second day, and bicycle for nearly all my mobility.) So I do really like those benefits.
    Since about 1982, another major dimension of happiness for me has been meditation (careful, well done meditation in a quiet place for 20 minutes with full, slowed breathing). I discovered recently that you can get CDs that almost immediately put you into the meditation state (altered brain state). I ordered the CD. The sample they sent me was quite good. It put me into the theta or delta brain state within a few seconds, which normally takes the 20 minutes of slow breathing. Various products will do that – search the web for “meditation CD”, delta theta. The one I ordered was the Awakened Mind System, for about US$20.
    Diet is another leg of the chair. I’ve nearly totally escaped caffeine, sugar, white bread. Still like a beer, which gives me dim-mood after effects.
    Despite all that, I still mismanage to be lonely and unhappy sometimes, but I can mellow out a lot using those strategies, especially meditation. It’s real bliss, an escape into peace.
    If you wait three hours, most bad unhappinesses fade a fair bit.
    If you have someone close who is a good co-hugger, that’s much better than prozac I reckon. I prescribe a basic dose of no less than five, close warm hugs each day. I lost my co-hugger (separation) a couple of months ago, and am feeling the misery of the deprivation.
    Cheers,
    Bruce Thomson, 58,
    Palmerston North, New Zealand

  • http://darkhollow.org Nike

    Good point: “exercise for SANITY not VANITY” I have seen enough people lack of motivation to maintain the training routine.
    http://darkhollow.org

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  • http://www.SuccessArticle.info tony

    The motivation levels in us may vary and go up and down at times.
    Perhaps one way to modulate this would be to develop success habits that help focus you toward completing a goal. The trick would be to not set unreasonably high goals.
    For example, just prepare to lose 1 pound in say a couple of weeks instead of trying to lose 10 pounds in the same amount of time.
    You might find that you can reach the simpler goal in a much shorter time.
    This small success can serve to motivate you to continue to work harder to reach the final goal.
    Next, just crank it one notch again, and this time, you could set the goal to lose 1.5 pounds in the same amount of time.
    This might work for you too, simply because the initially modest goals, which you manage to ace easily, becomes a good motivator for continued persistence.
    Succeed in your Health Goals!
    http://www.SuccessArticle.info

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    More or less nothing seems important. It’s not important. Shrug. Whatever. I’ve just been hanging out doing nothing, but eh. I can’t be bothered with anything lately.

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  • PopeRatzo

    Back in January, I started taking tai chi lessons at a local martial arts studio. I was terribly out of shape, grumpy and always sleepy. My wife suggested yoga, but something about tai chi appealed to me.
    Tai chi has simply transformed my life. In five months, I’ve shed 25 pounds, I have energy, I’m joyful, and my balance and strength have improved greatly.
    In the last month, I’ve even started studying the tai chi sword form, and the improvement in my life has been even more dramatic. I just turned 52 and I’ve never felt better.

  • Piper

    People should be exercising for HEALTH reasons. Exercising does not always lead
    to weight loss and weight loss does not
    always lead to happiness. It’s really
    too bad what should have been a POSITIVE
    article on happiness turned into propaganda
    to push an agenda. If you go to junkfoodscience.blogspot.com, you might
    see that everything you believe on weight
    and exercise is about as tasty as liver meat.

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