Why Aren't You Motivated to Exercise?

The secrets of exercise motivation

Man sitting on sofa playing video games and drinking beer
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If you follow the news about health and fitness these days and the constant focus on obesity, you may get the feeling that you're doing everything wrong. You sit all day at the computer -- wrong! You drive everywhere instead of walking -- wrong! You watch too much TV, don't take the stairs enough, don't exercise enough -- the list goes on and on. Sitting around, it seems, has become as dangerous as driving without a seat belt and, yet, that's how most of us spend our time.

It's clear that our sedentary world doesn't call for much activity, yet we need that activity to stay healthy and lose weight. So, how can we make exercise a more natural part of our lives? The first step is to figure out what's really behind our inactivity.

What's Stopping You from Exercise?

We're all familiar with the most common reasons we don't exercise -- we're too busy, too tired, it's too boring and confusing, etc. But are those reasons or are they excuses? We may tell ourselves we're too tired or busy, but the real reasons we don't exercise often go a little deeper.

1. We're not used to being active. For many people, structured exercise is something they've never had to do before. As a result, bringing exercise into an already busy schedule often feels like having an unexpected (and unwelcome) guest come for a visit. Having to rearrange your schedule to accommodate this guest causes stress, anxiety and even resentfulness.

That's often how we feel when we realize that starting an exercise program may require major changes in how we live and schedule our time.

2. Today's world doesn't require as much movement. The way we live now doesn't provide many opportunities to move around -- we don't have to be active to get things done.

If you come from an active family and have managed to stay active over the years, you may not have as much difficulty. But, if you don't have that foundation, you're now seeing how hard it is to work exercise in after years of being inactive.

3. We see exercise as a luxury. We know that exercise is necessary for good health, quality of life and weight management. Yet, even with experts asking us, practically begging us to exercise (and broadening the definition of exercise so much so that now housework is considered exercise), we're still trying to find a way around it. Whether it's a pill, a diet, a gadget or plastic surgery, too many of us still think we can get all the benefits of exercise without actually having to do it.

4. We view exercise as pointless or difficult. What do you picture when you think of exercise? Riding a stationary bike to nowhere, eyes rolling back into your head from boredom? Or maybe a complicated aerobics class where you're tripping over your feet? Unfortunately, too many of us see exercise (or at least what we've defined as exercise) as something negative.

It's boring, pointless, difficult, repetitious...fill in the blank and you've probably thought it. And if that's how you view exercise, is it any wonder you don't want to do it?

5. The consequences aren't immediate. For most things in life, there are immediate consequences if we don't do what we're supposed to do. But what happens if you don't exercise? Usually, nothing. At least, not right away. Even knowing the possible consequences (such as weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, cancer) aren't enough to get us going because it's tough to worry about something that hasn't happened or may never happen, isn't it?

Do any of these ideas strike a chord with you? If so, you may be wondering if it's even possible to find the motivation to exercise. The good news is that even just a small change in how you think about exercise can make a difference. 

Motivation isn't something that just happens to you, but something you create for yourself. Exercise may be all about moving the body, but you won't get anywhere until you move your mind first. Getting past your mental roadblocks can open the door for new ideas and new attitudes.

1. Accept the fact that you have to exercise. If you spend most of your time sitting and you want to lose weight and get healthy, exercise is a must.

Nothing, no pill or diet or surgical procedure can take the place of being active. Making peace with that fact often makes doing it a little easier and, the good news is, your choices abound. Exercise doesn't have to happen in a gym or take up hours of your time. Knowing you can create your own exercise experience may help you get up and get moving.

2. Acknowledge your lifestyle. In the past, we had more reasons to move. We had to cut our own grass, wash our dishes by hand, walk to and from school through eight feet of snow uphill both ways -- oops, that's my grandmother talking. The point is, things are different today and we can't go back to the past. Most of us aren't going to get rid of our computers, TVs, cars and cell phones and that isn't necessarily the answer. After all, these things are useful and important to us. But, these things can contribute to our health problems if we let them take over.

Acknowledging your responsibility as well as a need to find balance brings you one step closer to changing how you live.

3. Make exercise mean something to you. For many people, exercise is a means to an end -- a way to lose weight and get that perfect body...or at least a better one than they have now.

Future goals are nice, but there's another part to the equation that, when missing, makes exercise hard to stick to: Purpose. In other words, your workouts need to have value, regardless of whether you ever reach your desired goal. Always working for some future, intangible thing isn't enough - we need it to mean something now.

So, what does exercise mean to you besides a way to lose weight? Is there any value, outside of your weight loss goals, to working out? For me, exercise is a way to reduce stress and keep my energy up. For you, exercise might be the only time you get to yourself each day. Find you're own value and meaning and you'll find your motivation.

4. Find your own exercise path. Too often, the mainstream idea of exercise involves things like health clubs, cardio machines, fitness classes, etc. That's unfortunate if the thought of doing those things makes you cringe. Here's some good news -- you have the freedom to do whatever activities you like. If you hate the gym, you don't have to join one to get fit.

If you hate the repetition and boredom of machines, you can try more interactive things like basketball or spin class. If you like to keep things simple, you could take several walks throughout the day or add some laps the next time you shop at the mall. Find out what you like and forget the rules.

Getting Started

Reflecting on your mental exercise blocks is all well and good but, while you're chewing on that, why not take small steps towards a more active lifestyle? You don't have to turn your whole life upside down. Instead, use these resources to learn about simpler, smaller ways to start living a healthier lifestyle.

There's no question that life is different than it used to be, but that doesn't mean we can't take control of our health and fitness. All the new technology that keeps us so sedentary also offers us even more ways to be active. We now have streaming fitness videos, podcasts, fitness video games and a variety of health clubs to fit every need and budget. There's something out there for all of us once we take the time and effort to look.

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