The hardest part of working out is getting started. We all know we need to do it. Often, we’re glad we did. We feel energized and better for having done it. Finding just the right motivation for you may be the secret to working out and staying with it.
Path to improved wellness
Everyone has a different reason for working out. Some might exercise for their physical health, while others work out for their mental health. Some do it to look good. And some just enjoy being active. If you want or need to work out and are having trouble getting started, one of these reasons might be the motivation for you:
- Health and wellness. If living longer and living well is important to you, working out is a priority. Endless studies have shown that working out on a regular basis can reduce, delay, and maybe even prevent the onset of certain diseases. Diabetes, cancer, and dementia are some of the most common medical conditions positively affected by exercise.
- Mental health. Regular exercise helps your body release endorphins (hormone). This hormone helps reduce stress and can improve your mental outlook. Exercise has proved to be an important contribution to the treatment of depression and anxiety.
- Weight management. If you’re struggling to lose weight or maintain your weight loss, exercise is crucial. The combination of aerobic (running, dancing, walking) and weight-bearing exercise is especially helpful in building your muscles. This helps your body burn calories and fat.
- Recreation. Working out is a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family. And depending on the weather, it’s free. Activities such as walking, jogging, biking, tennis, basketball, and soccer are great group work outs. These activities also can get you laughing, which is important for your mental health.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) promotes safe and healthy fitness. This includes exercise as an essential part of health throughout life (and in preventing disease) and participation in recreational and competitive athletics.
Tips for getting started with a work out and staying with it include:
- Set reasonable goals. If you’re just starting, plan to exercise for 20 minutes 3 times a week and work up from there.
- Record your progress. Whether you’re checking your BMI, your weight, your clothing size, or your mood, track it to see if you are making progress.
- Give yourself a break. Try to work out on a regular basis, but don’t feel guilty if a day of personal and work obligations causes you to skip a work out.
- Make it all about you. Plan this time for you. You work hard for your employer and your family. You deserve to treat your mind and body.
- Seek support from friends and family. Ask your friends to encourage you or to be understanding when you choose to work out.
- Make it fun. If you don’t like to jog, don’t do it. Do you like to dance? Do you like yoga? Do what makes exercise fun.
- Mix it up. The same old routine can get boring. Consider doing different kinds of exercise. Alternate by the day, by the week, or by the month. Do what works for you.
- Work it into your daily life. Consider skipping that heavy lunch and working out instead. Take the steps instead of the elevator. Try waking up 30 minutes earlier once or twice a week to get your work out in and over with.
- Focus on the future. Don’t worry about past failures with weight and exercise. Stay focused on what you want to accomplish in the future.
- Pat yourself on the back. Don’t forget to celebrate your exercise success. While it’s okay to splurge on your diet once in awhile, focus on other kinds of rewards. Consider a movie, downloading a new song, or a hot bath. Choose something that makes you feel good about your accomplishment.
Things to consider
While exercise is a good thing, most people should talk to their doctor before starting an aggressive routine. This is true for people with existing health conditions, such as heart disease or other chronic illnesses. Other things to consider when motivating yourself to exercise include:
- Safety. Choose public areas or gym facilities that are safe.
- Expense. If you can’t afford a gym membership, look for less expensive alternatives. This might include community recreation centers (less expensive than most commercial gyms), a safe park, or dusting off your old bike.
- Age/ability. Talk to your doctor for recommendations on the type and level of exercise you should aim for at your age and ability.
- Type of activity. Consider what activities may be too much for you age and ability. For example, playing team sports, such as basketball, might be harder on your body as you age.
Questions to ask your doctor
- What type of exercise is good for seniors?
- How long after a heart attack or surgery should a person wait to exercise?
- What does it mean if I feel sick after working out?
- Can I exercise while pregnant?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.