How do I motivate myself to start exercising?

Bob Livingstone
Marriage & Family Therapy

There are several messages that can tell you that you need to exercise regularly. They are:

  1. You will improve your physical appearance;
  2. You will feel better mentally;
  3. You will gain more confidence;
  4. You will have more energy throughout the day;
  5. You will enjoy moving your body;
  6. Exercising and listening to music is a great, natural high; and,
  7. You will sleep better.

It is helpful to write these messages down and look at them as soon as you arise and then workout as soon as possible.

All wonderful answers, one thing I always tell me clients is to focus on the 5 pillars of goal setting.

Having a vision, strategy, belief, persistence and accountability.

Lets start with the first.  If you spend ample time having a clear vision for what you want to accomplish and be crystal clear about that then research shows that you will be more focused and more confident in the task in hand.  Then if the vision is clear it will much easier to put together a strategy that makes the vision.  The finally you have to believe that the strategy will get you to the place where your vision is a reality and also believing that you can do it and stick to it.

My advice is start and ask your "why" questions and talk with someone and figure out what you want and what that vision is.  Shoot for the stars!  Once you find that out I guarantee you will be more clear, more focused and more confident.  Then it is just a matter of matching up the strategy for that vision.

One of the best ways to motivate yourself to start exercising is to start to imagine what your life will be like when you are healthier, and have more energy. One way to look at it is to also imagine yourself with more self-confidence that you will gain from having a leaner stronger body; which in turn will increase blood flow through the body and help you to accomplish more things in a shorter amount of time in addition to reducing the risk of injury, and disease.

Turn exercise into something fun, motivation would be far less important if exercise is something enjoyable. There are several ways to do this:  

  • Make it playful, like participating in a sport or a game such as recreational softball, basketball or soccer. Help your children increase activity by playing catch or other games such as tag.  
  • Add a friend to your exercise programming. Taking walks or joining a sport with your spouse or friend can be added benefit.  
  • Group exercise will bring many people together in a fun environment.
  • Listen to music or audio books while exercising.  
  • Be adventurous; try new activities, such as hiking, yoga, pilates, or exercising at unique places such as playgrounds or parks.      
  • Don’t stress about weight loss, enjoy exercise and the weight will eventually come off.  

Goal setting is another way to make exercise fun. Using the acronym SMART, will make following goals easy and subsequently make an exercise routine manageable.    


o     A specific goal is one that clearly defines what needs to be done and how.    

•      Measurable

o     Goals need to be quantifiable. Establish a way to assess the progress toward each goal.  

•      Attainable

o     Goals should be challenging enough to make you push, but be attainable. This keeps you motivated to continue moving forward.

•      Realistic

o     To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which an individual is both willing and able to work. A goal is probably realistic if the individual truly believes that it can be accomplished.

•      Timely

A goal should always have a specific date of completion.

Motivation comes from within.  You need to determine why you want to start exercising and make it a priority.  Write down your goals and what you hope to accomplish by reaching your goals.  There are many different reasons for people to start exercising and once any of those reasons become important to you--then your motivation will be strong!
Brian Waldo
Great question!  You really need to begin by learning more about yourself.  Sit down and make a list of your top 5 priorities in life, next list the top five things you value in life.  Next make a list of 3-5 reasons you think you should exercise.  Ask yourself if there is any crossover between these things and are there priorites or values you have that you can fullfill through physical activity.  Then your goals are tied to things you value and alread place as a priority.  If this does not work you may need to begin with a more comprehensive assessement by a professional to get you pointed in the right direction!
Dr. Vonda Wright, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Making an exercise plan will help you get started. And as Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Here are the basic steps you need to follow to make your plan:

• What do you want to do in the next 12 weeks? Set a distance, choose a race, or otherwise decide what you want to do. Think about your future.
• See your doctor and get permission to start exercising.
• Make exercising nonnegotiable. Plan around your exercise time; don’t just fit it in if you can -- you won’t.
• Set up a way to be accountable. Tell all your family, coworkers, even strangers what you are going to do. Write it in your calendar, set an alarm in your PDA, put it up as your screensaver.
• Establish a reward. Feeling great is going to be an amazing reward, but perhaps you should buy yourself a special treat. Better yet, plan to race in some vacation spot.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.