What Motivates You to Exercise?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  305 comments   :  42,350 Views

It's no secret that there are many people who don't like to exercise for one reason or another, but at the same time, there are many others that really enjoy it. Why is there such a love it or hate it attitude towards exercise? There are numerous answers to that question and some might say that they had a really bad past experience, they find it boring and haven't found something that is enjoyable, or they may not see the instant gratification (weight loss) that they are looking for when it comes to exercise. As many of you know, what motivates one person to do something may not work for the next person. 
According to a recent article in The New York Times, health professionals may have been "using ineffective tactics to entice sedentary people to become, and remain, physically active." It suggests that perhaps we can motivate more people to exercise by promoting the benefits that you can see today, such as feeling happier, more energized and less stressed, rather than the health benefits in the future, such as weight loss or preventing heart disease or other health conditions. If viewing exercise that way is what helps a person be motivated to be more active, then that is great! But this makes me wonder how many people would continue to be motivated to exercise by the instant gratification of how you feel compared to other motivational factors, such as finding an exercise activity you enjoy or working towards other health benefits. No matter what the motivation is, the important thing is that we all become and stay active.

I find that my motivation to exercise is different each day and include both short-term and long-term benefits. I definitely enjoy the instant gratification that I get from it that causes me to feel better in general after exercising, but I also continue to do it because I enjoy the activities that I do, along with the long-term health benefits that I know I receive from it. I can't say that just one of those types of motivation work best for me (both work well in combination), so I certainly can't say either of those alone would work for you either.

So tell me, what motivates you to exercise? Do you think it is more motivating to focus on the short-term or long-term benefits (or a combination of the two)?

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  • 305
    I don't like to exercise, I like to train. Exercise implies a boring routine, doing the same thing over and over and over, like a hamster on a wheel. Training implies working towards a goal, with steps along the way to achieve. That said, easy days may be considered by some to be just exercise, but if part of a plan to achieve a goal, they are definitely training days. I spent the better part of this year training for a sub-2hr half marathon, but had to give that up due to my wife's illness (she can run, but cannot be left alone, so I run with her...which helps me keep my base, but is not training, so I feel like I know what I'm talking about). - 12/28/2016   9:00:32 AM
  • 304
    I workout to let go of my day and have clarity. - 12/28/2016   8:43:20 AM
  • 303
    Working out is a great stress reliever for me. - 12/27/2016   9:38:30 PM
  • 302
    Working out regularly helps me to eat better, feel better about myself, and to move easier! - 11/14/2016   7:23:56 PM
  • 301
    I exercise because I want to stay fit active and healthy.
    Now I am 60 I have to work a little harder to keep up and going.
    It helps with stiffness and aches and pains. - 10/30/2016   3:49:04 AM
  • 300
    When I first started out it was for one thing and that was to loss weight. I found that i really enjoy my workouts. i really like the way I feel afterwards and the benefits of lasting exercises. - 10/8/2016   9:48:32 AM
  • 299
    I have three reasons why I exercise. One, I need to loose weight. I have fought my weight all of my life. Two, I have type 2 diabetes. I am bound and determined not to go on insulin. Three, I want to live an active life for as long as I can. Whenever my motivation wavers, I think about my family. That gets me off of my backside and on to the elliptical. - 9/30/2016   9:57:38 PM
  • 298
    A workout is the ultimate "me time." I have kept at it since university days in a formal way; and I did it in high school out of necessity, as basic transportation. From Jack LaLane on black and white television to mind body fitness to group exercise, every day that I breathe, I am doing some form of purposeful exercise.
    Sometimes, I take exercise seriously enough to demand a certain intensity. Other times I am there for the social interaction; and there are times I just blend into the group or specifically go to a workout just to be alone. It's all good; and good for me. - 4/4/2016   9:11:11 PM
  • 297
    I just thought about this as I was walking this morning. I know that I'm burning calories, losing weight, making my body stronger, driving down my blood sugar, improving my health (especially later in life), and I'm glad about it. But, day-to-day, I focus more on seeing the beautiful city I live in, enjoying the time with my dogs, and learning to trust myself to act on the decisions I've made. I'm sure it's not a simple either/or equation, but I'm more aware of the short term benefits each day. :-) - 8/5/2015   3:38:13 PM
    Recently, I've found that I've been able to overcome the problems I've had in the past by simply thinking beyond the 'here and now' aspect of working out and fitness. When I first started working out again I was as big of a sceptic as I've ever been, but as time went by, I began to think about why I'm really trying to lose weight in the first place.

    In the past it's always been a case of; "I want to be hot", "I don't want to be embarrassed by X, Y, Z..." but now I tend to focus more on my well being. I find that when you go into your workout sessions (and meal planning too) with being happy from the inside out, with a positive attitude and without excuses, it becomes fun even.

    Most of us who have struggled with overeating in our lives have a tendency to get addicted to things easily, whether it's candy or, for me, every kind of deli sausage under the sun. Just give yourself time to adjust and get addicted to exercise. It's pretty easy once you get past the initial difficulties of getting your body moving.

    Get out of your own way, let yourself get addicted to moving your body. It feels great and you start to love it after a while. Worked for me :) - 6/27/2015   1:39:02 AM
  • 295
    I love to read , so I set the treadmill @ 15% incline & 3.5 MPH & just GO as I read my nook. I can make the words large on my nook ,so it is easy to see! It makes exercise the 65 min that I look forward too. Then since I'm @ the gym I do some weights & flex work. 1.5 hours 5 times a week. I'm happy & 56 years old. - 1/8/2015   1:12:10 PM
  • 294
    I exercise to be healthy...... that's it. I don't love it but I love what it does for me. I've found things I like to do indoors and I do them to be fit and help me stay on track! - 12/24/2014   5:18:09 AM
  • 293
    XExercise has always been a stress reliever forme! Also when I saw how it transformed my body I became addicted! Exercise had so Manu great benefits.! How could you not do it. - 11/8/2014   11:52:57 AM
    I like how exercise makes me feel AFTER (and, usually, during...depending on what I'm doing). I am 60 and have been doing some form of activity for at least 40 years...because it's good for my body and my mind. It also makes me look better. I had a mild Stroke in 2012 (malignant high-blood pressure - genetically rather than life-style related) and docs have assured me that my Stroke's severity would probably have been worse and my recovery from it, much slower and not as effective, if I had not already been in the "keep-fit" mind-set. - 11/8/2014   4:18:59 AM
  • 291
    I am motivated to do exercise daily because I know it is good for me and I feel better even if I didnt start out that way, which is really cool. I was never a big fan of exercise but I do see the many benefits I have reaped in keeping it up. - 11/6/2014   8:53:38 PM
  • DONNA6087
    I'm motivated by health. I'm a chronically unhealthy almost senior citizen, and since I've improved my eating habits and started exercising regularily, I've been able to undo some of my ailments, including type two diabetes. I'm still working on the blood pressure, though, exercise hasn't helped that. - 11/6/2014   2:25:02 PM
  • 289
    Originally I started to lose weight, and feel better about myself. Now that I'm doing it (and 13 pounds down!) I'm finding so many more benefits! I eat better, I sleep better, I FEEL BETTER, I'm in a better mood and my children are benefiting from that better mood. They are now exercising with me (they're tiny skinny boys but still need exercise!), going to the gym to socialize while I'm in class. So many benefits. It's amazing! - 11/6/2014   1:31:52 PM
  • 288
    I am mostly motivated to exercise by vanity--I want to look good! I am healthy--have been healthy--and want that to continue but I haul myself to the gym cause I want to LOOK better--petty, i know!! - 11/6/2014   1:30:25 PM
  • 287
    Exercise has reduced my anxiety by leaps and bounds, making me much better at my work. That is a HUGE motivation.

    Running around with my nephew at a baptism and panting became another motivator.

    I also LOVE to hike and want to be able to do that for much longer distances. - 11/6/2014   1:02:35 PM
    MY “WHY” – July 15th, 2014

    I grew up in a home where food is love, and learned to binge eat, hate my body (even at 5'6" and 128lbs when my doc wanted to hospitalize me - I believed I was fat and ugly and unworthy b/c that's what I was told and observed), sneak food (especially sweets and chocolate), and was told that exercise and wanting to change my body was "selfish". Needless to say, my late brother, my parents, and my sister were/are obese. My ex-husband made things worse, bringing me home Oreos, candy bars, etc, telling me how much I deserved them and encouraging me to eat them all in one sitting. Every time I tried to get healthy, he stepped up the abuse.... I was over 200lbs at my heaviest, after a miscarriage and the birth of my first child 11 1/2 years ago. Somehow, between each pregnancy I lost 10-20lbs, but during the end of my marriage I gained it all back from the stress of leaving and having NO ONE but a couple of friends to turn to. I began this journey in earnest a year ago in May, when I looked at my wedding pictures and realized how heavy I'd gotten again and how uncomfortable I was in my own skin, and how I NEEDED to take control of my health. I don't want my 3 kids growing up with a mama who is too fat or sick to do things with them. I want to be able to go on long hikes, and bike rides, and run races, and when they get to high school I want to be a healthy in shape mom, not the fat mom they're ashamed to be seen with. I also want to teach them that just because we have many health challenges (I've got celiac, life threatening food allergies, severe asthma, adrenal fatigue, environmental allergies, and MCS - the kids have all but adrenal fatigue), it IS possible to be healthy and strong, and reduce our incidences of being on prednisone, confined to the recliner (which is how I spent most of last fall). I also want to be healthy for my amazing husband, my soulmate, who God put into my life when I least expected it, and who is my biggest supporter and encourager - and who is 10 years older than me and has nerve issues in his spine and isn't supposed to even be walking by now - but has taken up running with me and eliminated all of his blood pressure meds. I want us to be excellent examples to my kids of what life can be like if you just put in the effort.
    - 7/16/2014   10:56:07 AM
    I am motivated to exercise for the following: to lose weight, to be able to eat more calories, for long term health, and just because I like to get out early in the morning and get my walking in! I love the outdoors, so that helps!!
    - 5/21/2014   1:07:16 PM
    My friends and family - 5/21/2014   8:46:50 AM
    To look good NAKED:) - 5/20/2014   9:47:46 PM
  • 282
    I feel better,happier and even when the scale hasn't moved I feel like my clothes fit better. - 5/20/2014   6:31:49 PM
  • 281
    There is no easy answer but the main one is health. I want to get healthy. Our bodies need exercise. I want to gain muscle and lose fat and tone as I go. I want to not crumble under the weight of my body (carrying 350lbs+ everywhere you go is h*ll!). I want to live a long life.

    Both my parents and a lot of my family have heart problems and there are lots of other potential health issues exercise can help. I want to do what I can to reduce my risk factors. Their doctors are always telling them to exercise. It is important!

    It is also an awesome mood helper. I get depressed a lot and easily. There is never a time I end my walk or workout without a smile on my face and a feeling of happiness and accomplishment :) I am in a stage where is hard but every day that it is hard, I push through it so I like the reward of knowing I can do this. - 5/20/2014   5:27:13 PM
  • 280
    I exercise because I want to increase my mobility and range of motion. I have a hip issue which had to improve to a certain point before I could exercise at all. Once I reached that point, which coincided with my discovering Spark people's archive of exercise videos, I've exercised regularly. I LOVE the seated exercises. I do the core and cardio routines 5 to 6 times weekly. Thanks Sparkpeople!! - 5/20/2014   1:28:14 PM
  • 279
    Knowing that being active is better than not being active motivates me. Even if it's just for a little bit. Plus a feel better always after and I know eventually my body will benefit. - 2/25/2014   7:13:56 PM
    I find that I'll get up and be like yes I will go for a run today than five minutes later I'll still be on the couch. - 2/8/2014   10:24:02 AM
  • 277
    my very accurate digital scale motivates me and the "feel good" feeling after exercise keeps me coming back for more. my Kinect Zumba is also teaching me how to do some cool new dance moves... - 1/9/2014   11:12:38 AM
    it makes me feel good the rest of the day - 1/8/2014   6:02:24 AM
    I can't imagine a life without exercise and being active. I'm retired and I center my day around exercise. I do a myriad of activities from cycling (42 miles with 4300 feet elevation gain today), hiking (Boulder was in the 90s yesterday, but we beat the heat with a 3-hour hike up at 9000 feet where it was in the 60s and 70s), walking, step classes - and so much more. I take 1-2 recovery days each week, but usually walk on those days. Exercise is freeing, stress-reducing, fun, and exhilarating. I had to give up running because of some skeletal issues, but there were always other activities to take up the slack.

    Feeling healthy is my motivation. I see that as both short-term and long-term. - 7/5/2013   10:47:44 PM
  • 274
    The full length MIRROR! - 7/5/2013   11:33:43 AM
    I wish I could learn to love exercise, but I just don't. The only form of exercise I love is anything to do with water, I go to the pool twice a week for water exercise class, any other form of exercise really hurts my knees and back - 7/5/2013   10:15:05 AM
  • 272
    I worked out a lot more regularly before I spent my mornings reading SPARK stuff, but I still get quite a bit of regular activity in my garden and I've learned many things from hanging out here. - 7/5/2013   9:36:23 AM
    I have never been sorry that I did my yoga or workout. Always happier and better balanced after any type of exercise. Walking, hiking, yoga. I have had had many times that I regretted not moving when I had the chance. - 7/5/2013   6:59:37 AM
  • 270
    all sorts of things motivate me to exercise:

    Knowing that it's good for me (yes yes, I know. I have a strong parent)
    Wanting to look good
    Not wanting to be limited in my choices of activities (and late in life, my choices of caregivers)
    For my heart
    My activity monitor (I use Weight Watcher's ActiveLink
    The joy of a particular exercise - and the chance to watch dumb tv while doing some of my favorites
    The Pure Pleasure of movement

    But most of all - it's habit. I'm in the habit of daily exercise. When I don't get any exercise I feel weird. - 7/5/2013   6:46:36 AM
  • 269
    I exercise because I love how it makes me feel. It takes care of stress and worries. It takes me outside to wonderful places. It gets me connected with people. It makes me feel like a champion. Exercise is not a burden, it's a life style. I love how I feel after a run, a bike ride, a hike, a walk, a swim, a dive. I am alive and kicking! - 7/5/2013   6:12:19 AM
    I used to enjoy exercise in moderation but regular basis till I was 53yrs.. Then there has been change in work place and I became lethargic and totally stopped any kind of exercise for about 4 years.
    The reason of restarting exercise ( or you can say motivation force) is pain in my left knee about an year back. I visited ortho who recommended leg exercises. The reason of pain in knee was due to leg muscles getting loose to the extent of not holding my knee joint in place.
    I joined gym a month back and working out 5 days a week for about 30 - 40mins. To my surprise I found that knee pain is reduced.... Though I am still a long way from complete recovery, it has averted unnecessary knee surgery and I feel more energetic!!
    So, for me, exercising is certainly short term goal but will continue to reap better results during my old age.
    - 7/5/2013   3:00:01 AM
  • 267
    I initially started exercising as a means to lose weight and get healthy. I made a zero-excuses commitment to exercise 5 days a week. For the exception of an occasional injury or serious illness - I have kept that 5 days a week commitment for nearly 18 months!

    Exercise quickly ceased being a means to an end... it is now an essential part of my life - right up there with air and water! Now, with that said, there are certainly days where I don't necessarily feel like exercising - but what I want and what I NEED will forever be at odds... I know if I DON'T exercise I will be extremely cranky and more prone to binge eat. Knowing I will feel absolutely AMAZING afterwards is usually motivation enough. :D - 7/5/2013   12:16:10 AM
  • 266
    I work out because i'm scared to have another diabetic seizure. I had 3 on my last vacation in gatlinburg, TN. - 7/4/2013   11:53:13 PM
  • 265
    It's a combination of short term and long term goals for me. I want to lose weight to get pregnant. I had pre-eclampsia last time and I want to do anything I can to prevent that from happening a second time. Short term benefits is I am a stay at home mom so I rarely get time to myself. My run at night or in the morning really helps me release my stress. - 7/4/2013   10:47:45 PM
    I am working out and getting into shape so I can be in the 2016 Olympics for Archery! - 7/4/2013   10:33:04 PM
  • 263
    Exercise is my antidepressant. It's a wonder drug. You have to be on this drug for several weeks before you realize: Hey, I'm not blue anymore! Or: OK, I'm blue, but it'll pass.

    It can be really hard to motivate yourself to start and keep exercising when you're blue. So I try not to let more than a couple days go without it, or I'll end up in a bad place again.

    Regular exercise gives me the feeling that I'm participating in my own life rather than watching from the sidelines. - 7/4/2013   8:57:16 PM
  • 262
    For me it is the long term benefits.Does it matter how you try to get someone to exercise? I think it is best to put both short term and long term benefits out there and people will choose what works for them.

    Healthy habits are very personal. You can't put everyone in the same category. You can't bully them into exercising, Good example like the success blogs on SP are what it takes sometimes to make the first step towards a healthy lifestyle. - 7/4/2013   8:05:30 PM
    Both work for me. I started working out again because I felt so lethargic, and I was overweight. Now, since I'm not quite as overweight, I really look forward to walking (or any other form of exercise). It's a nice benefit, too, that I'm protecting my body in the long run. - 7/4/2013   7:39:38 PM
  • 260
    Working out is something I can control and for 1-2 hours It's all about ME! No errands to run, no kids, Just good ole sweaty working out, and knowing that how much I put into it directly correlates to what I get out keeps me going! - 7/4/2013   7:09:38 PM
  • 259
    Working out is my time. My time to be by myself, to think, to contemplate, to make myself better. Yes, my workout time is all about me. - 7/4/2013   5:18:55 PM
    I exercise because after just a few months of SP 10 minutes a day start I really saw major improvements in my life. I have now gone from walker, wheelchair and scooter to using only a cane and recapturing my normals in my life. I never dreamed I could have so many everyday things back. This makes me guard those exercise times because they have changed my life...baby step by baby step. I also feel I have worked very hard to get this far and it would be a waste to lose this and go backward. I think it is both short and long term. - 7/4/2013   5:18:51 PM
  • 257
    I love to sweat. Then taking a shower afterwards makes me feel cleaner than before I sweated! Love it! - 7/4/2013   5:13:59 PM
  • SNIX7900
    My main motivation for exercising is the way it positively impacts my mood. I feel more energetic and positive when I exercise, and if those were the only benefits, that would be enough. All of the other benefits are bonuses. - 7/4/2013   5:06:21 PM

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