For many of us, exercise is hard to love, even though people say that running gives you a high or exercise is addictive. The thought of going to the gym can make some people dread it.
Why do some of us dislike exercise? How can we overcome this to get the body moving?
Being active wasn't a choice throughout most of human history. Humans used to have to move to find food and then rest because they didn't know where their next meal was coming from.
If you have the urge to sit down and watch a show instead of going to the gym, you might take solace in the fact that resting is a natural human tendency.
Our 21st-century lifestyles involve a lot of sitting and resting. It is no longer necessary to move for daily survival with the use of technology.
Being physically inactive is bad for our health. A meta-analysis published in prestigious medical journal The Lancet found that physical activity is associated with a higher risk of colon cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and premature death.
Australian adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. A brisk walk, light cycle or mowing the lawn is a moderate intensity exercise.
If you are willing to do vigorous physical activity, you only need half that. You would struggle to have a conversation if you were jogging or playing a sport like tennis.
Different physical activities have different benefits. Lifting weights or doing push ups can be done twice a week to strengthen the muscles.
Any exercise is good for you if that is starting to sound too complicated. You can benefit from physical activity if you do not have to meet the physical activity guidelines.
There are two main types of motivation, according to psychologists. Intrinsic motivation comes from doing something for the personal reward or challenge. External factors like trying to earn a reward or avoid a punishment can lead to extrinsic motivation.
Identifying why exercising is important to you can boost your motivation.
1. Do you want to exercise for your health? Is it for your children? Is it for how you feel when you work out? Long-term benefits of exercise include health and function, flow-on benefits for your children, and immediate effects on mood and vitality. Being clear about what you want to gain from exercising can prompt you into action.
You can get started with exercise with the help of extrinsic motivators.
2. To exercise together, meet a friend. You will be more likely to follow through, as you will not want to let your friend down. People who exercise with friends and family are more likely to exercise for longer.
Reward yourself with a new piece of clothing or shoes that you will enjoy exercising in. You have to earn the reward if you do a certain amount of exercise.
Get an activity tracker. The features of fitness trackers are designed to boost motivation. There is a lot of research suggesting activity trackers increase physical activity.
It becomes a habit if you exercise at the same time each day. Research shows that exercising in the morning leads to faster habit formation.
Do an activity that you enjoy. It's hard to start a new exercise habit. If you find an activity enjoyable, you can increase your chances of sticking with it. If you are doing a form of exercise that you enjoy, you can exercise at a higher intensity without even realizing it. Don't run if you hate it. Go for a walk.
Start small. Leave yourself wanting more. You are less likely to hurt yourself.
Listening to up-beat music improves mood during exercise and reduces perceived exertion, which leads to increased work output. These benefits are particularly useful for exercising in a repetitive fashion.
Take your dog for a walk. Dog-walkers walk more often and for longer than non-dog walkers, and they report feeling safer and more connected to their neighborhood.
A financial commitment is made. Humans are motivated by loss aversion. Some commercial websites are using this to get people to sign up for a health behavior contract in which they pay a financial deposit that is forfeited if the behavior is not met. It has been shown that this approach improves physical activity, medication adherence and weight loss.
It takes around three to four months to form an exercise habit. The intrinsic motivators take over after that.
Maybe you will be the one who will inspire your friends and family to get up and work out a few months from now.
Ben Singh is a research fellow at the University of South Australia.
This article is free to use under a Creative Commons license. The original article is worth a read.