Jun 29, 2016

How to get Motivated to Exercise

Do you tend to negotiate with yourself and make excuses not to exercise; I’m too tired, too busy at work or with the kids, it’s too cold in winter, too hot in summer or I’ll start on Monday? The excuse list goes on and on.

Sometimes you may not even make excuses because exercising is simply lower on your priority compared to other activities.

Unfortunately it sometimes takes a tragedy – such a friend or a loved one getting sick or having a heart attack – for you to get a wake-up call and see the value in exercising and having a healthier lifestyle.

If this sounds like you, here are some tips to motivate you and get you started exercising:

  1. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet – clean out the junk and unhealthy foods from your fridge and cupboards so you’re not tempted. Then refill them with fresh fruits, vegetables, yogurt, nuts etc. If you eat healthier, you feel better and you therefore have another level of motivation to exercise.
  2. Manage expectations – don’t go from zero to hero. Start your exercise regime with baby steps and keep it simple (eg. go for a walk). Slowly increase your activity level with a planned routine by following a program. This is called the gradual exposure technique.As you gradually increase your activity level, you tend to be more confident so your overall self-esteem and motivation improves. You’ll also have a greater sense of control over your mental well-being.
  3. Be patient – give yourself a 4-8 week timeframe where exercise may have a real impact on your overall fitness level.
  4. Now that winter has closed in, don’t use the cold weather as an excuse not to exercise. As the saying goes, summer bodies are created in winter. When exercising in the cold, dress in layered clothes and slowly remove as you build up a sweat.
  5. Figure out what activity motivates you and what may be a good distraction – exercise with your favourite music or podcast, run with a friend, work out in the morning when your energy is at its highest or read an audiobook on the treadmill.
  6. As obvious as it sounds, exercise is not just about hitting the gym. In addition to your training in the gym, find an activity that is fun and motivates you such as trampolining, pole dancing, gardening, household chores, group fitness training, PT sessions, tennis or other sports. Mix it up so there is variety.
  7. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, you sometimes lose interest in pleasurable activities and withdraw from people. So consider doing fun activities with other people as it’s an important part of the healing process.
  8. Be flexible with your thinking. For example, you don’t have to start exercising on a Monday; or if you get busy at work and you were only able to exercise twice that week instead of three times, don’t throw the towel in. This “all or nothing” thinking is called black and white thinking.As well, you may use other healthy and active people as your benchmark. This can sometimes not be helpful as it sets an unrealistic standard and in turn lowers your confidence. This type of thinking is called “comparing”.
  9. Give yourself positive reinforcement when you reach a set goal (eg. buy yourself a new pair of shoes once you complete a month of regularly exercising).
  10. Make sure you get enough sleep so you’re rested and ready to tackle your workout and so your body recovers from your workouts more easily.


Another big point when you’re starting out exercising – you don’t have to suffer or be in pain to get results from exercising. The best type of exercise is one that you do regularly and it forms part of your weekly routine and lifestyle. Results drive motivation. First you will feel it, then you will see it and then others will begin to take notice too.

If you’re still finding it hard to get motivated to exercise, ask yourself if there are potentially other underlying issues related to your mental health that could be getting in the way. This could be self-confidence issues, anxiety, depression or past experiences weighing you down. If this is the case, it’s best to consider speaking with a trusted health professional.

Ondine Hasbani
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Counselling: Looking after the whole of you
Psychologist: BSc (Psych, Maths), MA (Psych), MBA