By Milani Pickering BS, ACSM

What is motivation? Motivation is the general desire or willingness of someone to do something. However, we all know that staying motivated is not as easy as it seems sometimes. If you are anything like me, some mornings it takes a few snooze buttons before I can finally get out of bed. If that is not the case for you, then there are things that motivate you more than others. For example, an area of low motivation for some people is exercise. Nevertheless, all is not hopeless. Much research now supports more effective ways to stay motivated and ways to set goals to help you stay committed.

Scientists have found that motivation is a huge factor with individual’s accountability and retention with exercise. Studies showed that 40% of people that make fitness based goals will quit within a month after goal setting. Why has it become such a problem? Why have gyms struggled time and time again to keep individuals motivated to stay fit? Sadly, societal branding on exercise has been a main reason for decreasing exercise motivation. What that means is that by prescribing exercise as something to improve your health, illness prevention, or to lose weight actually lower workout program retention rates. Segar (2017) states, “A prescription to exercise to optimize health, regardless of how it makes people feel, might seem like good medicine, but people are not as motivated unless it is for well-being or to feel good” (p. 839). However, even though optimized health will motivate people to start exercising, it will have negative effects on an individual’s long-term participation. Researchers found that prescribing exercise to individuals will actually lower their drive or desire to participate, or even result in them avoiding exercise all together.

Based on these studies, it is suggested that physicians, exercise professionals, and individuals should focus on motivational attributes that implement better quality of life; such as, better moods, relaxation, and stress reduction. The studies indicate, “intrinsic motivation, or being active for the inherent pleasure it brings, was the type of motivation most strongly associated with sustainability” (Segar, 838). In addition, the smaller goals and more immediate rewards you can implement for motivating yourself or others, the better results. If there is a longer delay in reward, like preventing illness or weight loss, sustainability towards exercise will decrease. Weight loss goals can lead to insufficient or perceived slow results for an individual to remain dedicated to the program. It is easy for them to be discouraged with these types of goals. Moreover, research shows “people that focus on weight loss spent 32% less time exercising than those that focus on feeling better in day to day life” (Segar, 838). Therefore, to ensure increased motivation levels, focus on goals related to quality of life, and avoid motivators that put pressure on individuals about their health or place emphasis on tasks they “should” be doing. Furthermore, women in exercise research state, “’Being centered,’ ‘balanced and relaxed,’ ‘feeling good,’ and ‘happiness’” as successful superordinate exercise goals. Given women’s constant juggling of roles and responsibilities, it is no surprise that they want their limited leisure time to represent “’relaxation,’ ‘personal freedom,’ ‘lack of constraints,’ and ‘self-determination,’” so take that into consideration as well (Segar, 6).

All in all, whether you are trying to find the motivation to stick to your New Year’s Resolution or you just want to make more trips to the gym, give examples to yourself or others on daily living improvements that exercise brings, such as being a patient parent, enjoying life, increasing creativity and/or improving focus at work. If staying motivated to exercise was easy, everyone would be doing it. I am not saying it’s easy, I am saying there are ways to increase your desire to workout. It should be something enjoyable, so find the right way to motivate yourself and others.

We can help you stay motivated to exercise or eat right.  Contact us today to make an appointment to get on the right program.

References

Segar, Michelle and Caroline Richardson. “Prescribing Pleasure and Meaning Cultivating

Walking Motivation and Maintenance.” AJPMONLINE. Dec 2014. Web. 27 Jan 2017. <http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(14)00327-4/pdf>.

Segar, M., & Eccles, J. (2011, August 31). Rebranding exercise: closing the gap between values and behavior | International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity | Full Text. Rebranding exercise: closing the gap between values and behavior | International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity | Full Text. Retrieved January 27, 2017, from http://download.springer.com/static/pdf/>.