A lack of motivation to exercise regularly is the number one reason why most of us don’t. Sure, time is a close second, but let’s face it. We can all find 10-30 minutes a day to increase our level of physical activity. Now, more than 2/3 of Americans are sedentary. The lack of physical activity is a very serious health concern that increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea and certain cancers. So where can we find continual motivation to stay healthy? Let’s take a look at a 2007 study published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise.

The goal of this study was to determine whether “intrinsic motivation”  (self motivation), or “extrinsic motivation” (environmental motivation) is more important in initiating and maintaining healthy exercise habits. Researchers surveyed 200 college-aged men and women to see which type of motivation was driving their workouts. They found that extrinsic motivation was more effective in initiating physical activity. For example, many began exercise programs to lose weight, look good, get paid, or receive some other tangible award. On the other hand, those who maintained long-term physical activity did so for more personal reasons, or were intrinsically motivated. They overall enjoyed physical activity, felt confident in correct exercise technique, were relaxed and personally satisfied.


When initiating, or finding motivation to begin exercising you must define your goals for working out in the first place. Why start exercising now? Is it to gain energy? Lose weight? Become stronger? Fit into those old clothes? Then, after you define your goals, find a way to reward yourself for making that commitment.

After 2-3 weeks of continual exercise, you should identify what you like about exercising. Do you enjoy the way that you feel? Like learning new exercises? Spending time with your fitness partner? Then you must also focus on the long-term benefits of exercising, such as reduced risk of disease, better energy, stronger immune system, better mood, etc. Using these strategies is another tool in your “exercise pantry!”

Commitment and motivation is never easy, but remember:

Motivation fades, habits prevail…

Buckworth, J., Lee, R., Regan, G., Schneider, L., DiClemente, C. (2007). Decomposing intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for exercise: Application to stages of motivational readiness. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. 8, 441-461.