Exercise Motivation: Why Good Intentions May Not Be Enough – By Matthew Custer

29 Jun Exercise Motivation: Why Good Intentions May Not Be Enough – By Matthew Custer

So you’ve decided that you want to improve your fitness, but you might not know where to start. There are many different exercise programs out there from Zumba to CrossFit and everything in-between. But before you even consider what you want to do, it is in your best interest to know why you want to exercise. Many people make very well-intentioned plans to get fit, but time and time again, a large amount of them give up.[1] Not everyone can jump right in and have life-long results. The point is that fitness is about proper mindset first—before you ever set foot into a gym.

The “why” in exercise motivation is often difficult to answer, especially for someone who is self-conscious. People exercise for a variety of reasons, some more healthy than not.[2]
I’m not denouncing people who might have gone into fitness for unhealthy reasons, but it is far better for your mental and physical well-being to have a healthy reason for exercise. To arrive at this reason, you will have to be truly honest about yourself and accept that you might have unhealthy motivations. But don’t let this possibility make you give up before you start. You don’t have to have completely pure motivations to exercise. Just be aware that such motivations may exist inside you and proceed with care.

Being fit is not the cure-all for improved self-esteem. There are many people who are in shape that are still unhappy about the way they look and feel. Unfortunately, all people can be negatively affected by unreasonable societal and media expectations of how you should look.[3]
However, if you approach fitness with a mindset of kindness and compassion toward yourself, being physically healthier can indeed help nurture a more positive view of yourself, inside and out. Exercising because you care about your health is far better than doing it because you hate the way you look.[4]

You might have grand ideas about certain fitness goals, but focusing on one large end-goal can often lead to frustration and failure. If you’re exercising for the first time or trying to get back into shape, it is far more manageable to have small, easily achievable goals in mind that lead you towards your long-term goal. Making your goals personally interesting and exciting will help you maintain enthusiasm. Even if getting ready to exercise is something new, consider it as a personal victory. It is easier to forgive yourself for a small slip-up than to get off track on a big goal and quit altogether. Dust yourself off and try again.

Once you have spent the time understanding your own personal motivations and goals for exercise, consider opening up about your thoughts to your friends, family, and other communities of supportive people in your life such as One Silver Lining. There are always people that are willing to listen who have been in similar life situations to yours. No single person has the perfect advice that works for you, so take each person’s words of wisdom with a grain of salt and pick and choose the parts of their advice that feels right.

All these considerations are among the most important things you can do to give yourself the healthiest chance for success and positive change. It isn’t necessarily easy to come to the realization that exercise could be beneficial for your mental and physical health. It requires an acceptance within yourself that you may have made honest mistakes in the past, but now you have a wonderful opportunity to take care of yourself, one step at a time.


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[1] Statistics Brain, “New Years Resolution Statistics,” http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/ (accessed June 23, 2014).
[2] Robert J. Vallerand, and Catherine F. Ratelle, “Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: A Hierarchical Model,” in Handbook of Self-Determination Research, ed. Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2002), 37–64.
[3] Mary Polce-Lynch, Barbara J. Myers, Wendy Kliewer, and Christopher Kilmartin, “Adolescent Self-Esteem and Gender: Exploring Relations to Sexual Harassment, Body Image, Media Influence, and Emotional Expression,” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 30 (2001): 225–44.
[4] F. B. Gillison, M. Standage, and S. M. Skevington, “Relationships Among Adolescents’ Weight Perceptions, Exercise Goals, Exercise Motivation, Quality of Life and Leisure-Time Exercise Behaviour: A Self-Determination Theory Approach,” Health Education Research 21 (2006): 836–47; and Susan S. Levy and Vicki Ebbeck, “The Exercise and Self-Esteem Model in Adult Women: The Inclusion of Physical Acceptance,” Psychology of Sport and Exercise 6 (2005): 571–84.


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