How Do I Keep Motivated?

Motivation is the key to long-term behaviour change. If you are going to become more active then there will be times when you really don't feel like exercising. This is especially true for the winter months, when lack of motivation can be a real problem.

Here are a few simple psychological ways in which you can increase your motivation. Click on each link for more information:

The best way to keep active is to do something that you enjoy doing. There are thousands of ways in which you can exercise. Of course, enjoyment is a very personal thing, so it's important to find something that suits you.

  • Exercise with a friend or a group of people, if it suits you
  • Buy a personal stereo, exercise whilst listening to music (or a talking book).
  • Talk to a friend on your mobile whilst peddling an exercise bike
  • Relax for half an hour after exercising
  • If walking/jogging/cycling, take alternative routes to make things more interesting, get to know your local environment better
  • Take your dog out for a walk every day (remember – animals need exercise too!). If you don't have a dog, volunteer to walk someone else's.
  • Try to get the support of your family and friends. It is much easier to keep motivated if they are on your side.

Remember - most people don't enjoy exercise immediately; it takes a little time before you can feel the benefits.

Looking to the future (goal-setting) and the past (tracking progress) can be a very effective way of keeping motivated.

Make sure your goals are easily achievable. Setting yourself an unrealistic goal will only de-motivate you when you fail to achieve it. The sense of achievement from completing multiple realistic goals will help keep you motivated.

  • Set short term goals, one of your first goals could be – 'to make exercise a habit'.
  • Set health goals, not weight goals. As we've said before, exercise will not make much difference to your weight in the short-term. You need to get into the habit of exercising for the benefit of your health and well-being, not just for your weight.
  • Set time-related goals, not distance or speed-related goals. After all, it is the time spent doing an exercise that is most important with regard to your health. The advantage of a time-related goal is that you can alter the intensity of your exercise depending upon how you feel each day, but you need to keep clocking the minutes up.
  • Keep a written record of your progress, all the goals you have made and completed. This way you can look back and see how much you have achieved.
  • If you are feeling particularly unmotivated, repeat your very first workout. You will probably be amazed at how easy it seems. This will allow you to see how much progress you've made.
  • Think of exercise as cumulative; when going about your daily life you should be constantly adding to it

If you think of exercise as a chore, or as something you have to psych yourself up to do, then it is quite likely that you won't stick to it. One of the most helpful things you can do is to make a habit out of activity.

Once you have gotten to the stage where climbing the stairs is a habit, you don't think about it - you just do it. Motivational problems will rapidly disappear as you become less conscious of the effort that is required.

  • Start thinking of exercise in terms of your daily life
  • Get yourself into the position where short bursts of activity become a habit. Don't think of exercise as something you set time aside for, think of it as something you do during the course of the day, or whilst doing other things
  • Try setting yourself a specific goal to make exercise habitual
  • Pay special attention to the feeling of satisfaction you get after exercising