I can easily start an exercise program, but lose motivation long-term. What can help?

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I can easily start an exercise program, but lose motivation long-term. What can help?

October 21, 2009, 11:32AM

MotivationWhen it comes to exercise, people are motivated for different reasons. For some it may be aesthetics, for others it may be the numerous health benefits exercise provides or perhaps the fact that they are preparing for a particular sport or event. Whatever the exact reason may be, often times many of us find ourselves struggling to maintain a consistent level of motivation long-term.

Understanding Motivation

By definition, motivation is the need or desire that forces a person to act, or the driving force that determines behavior. There are two types of motivational strategies- extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation (e.g. rewards, recognition, etc) have been shown to drive short-term compliancy, whereas intrinsic motivation (e.g. sense of accomplishment, self-gratification, etc) drives long-term compliancy, and is essential to the accomplishment of the overall goal.

Long-term Motivation

While extrinsic motivational strategies, such as treating yourself to a weekly massage, may provide motivation initially, within the first six months of starting an exercise program it is important to progress towards intrinsic motivational strategies by reinforcing positive thoughts and feelings associated with regular exercise.

Strategies for Success

Not sure how to go about staying motivated? Here are some strategies for transitioning towards intrinsic motivation-

  • Remind yourself why you are here- Maintain a strong perception of the importance of long-term change.
  • Stay hooked on that feeling- Reflect on the positive feelings and successes you’ve previously experienced from regularly exercising.
  • Consider the pros and cons- Compare the numerous benefits associated maintaining a regular exercise program to the costs of leading a non-active lifestyle. Acknowledging the pros and cons will help you to keep the decisional balance in favor of change in the long run.
  • Set yourself up for success- Ensure that outcome expectations are reasonable by establishing short-term (weekly), medium-term (monthly) and long-term (6 months +) realistic goals which are continually evaluated and adjusted to ensure continued progress and success.
  • Keep in mind that change takes time- It is important to remember that change does not occur overnight. Recognize that in order to obtain desired results both time and continued effort are required.
  • Be your own “cheerleader”- The fact of the matter is you do have the ability to make changes and you can adhere to those changes long-term. Maintaining a positive attitude and providing yourself with internal feedback (such as praising yourself for a job well done) will aid you in your quest for long-term success.

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