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Is A Lack Of Motivation Holding You Back From Staying Active

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When it comes to keeping active, one of the most important factors is motivation. Some of us seem to be naturally able to commit, whereas for others we need a bit more of a push!

We have all probably started an exercise plan with high levels of motivation, only to then find it waning after a few weeks. In this article, we look at why this happens and what we can do to overcome it.

Where does motivation come from?

There are a couple of different types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is what we usually rely on when it comes to exercise.

For example, wanting to look good in a swimsuit for a holiday, or losing weight for a wedding. Reminding yourself of these goals can be useful motivation for those moments when you think about missing your exercise session.

However, this type of motivation can be fleeting, especially if you aren’t seeing the results of your efforts straight away.

Intrinsic motivation comes from within: it’s something that’s important to you right now, rather than a future goal.

For example, exercising because it makes you feel good, enjoying that runner’s ‘high’, or exercising because it relieves stress. It’s this type of motivation that tends to have more staying power.

Research has shown that we may be less motivated to be active if the main reason to keep active is to lose weight or change our body shape – rather than just exercising because we enjoy it and it makes us feel good.

Overcoming barriers

There are often barriers or obstacles that someone may have to overcome, such as lack of time due to having a busy lifestyle, limited access to workout facilities, or an environment that lacks a safe place for you to get active. But there are ways to get active that overcome some of these factors.

Here are our top tips to help you become – and stay – motivated

“When it comes to keeping active, one of the most important factors is motivation. Some of us seem to be naturally able to commit, whereas for others we need a bit more of a push!”

Matt Lambert, World Cancer Research Fund’s nutritionist, and fitness expert
  • Do what you enjoy. If you find yourself wanting to dance instead of lifting weights or jogging, it’s better to do that rather than trying to force yourself to do something just because you think you should. There are countless ways to exercise and keep active and you can also workout in the comfort of your home. Try to remember, you’re more likely to stick with a fitness programme if you’re having fun. 
  • Set goals. It can be useful to have a goal in mind. You may even find that writing your goals down and having somewhere you can see them can help to keep you motivated. Remember to make your goals realistic, achievable and fit in with your daily life. 
  • Track your progress. If you are someone who likes tracking your progress, measuring your daily step count can be a good option. Watching how many steps you take each day and challenging yourself to reach a daily goal is a great way to keep motivated – and it helps you keep track of your daily activity. You may also find that it helps to keep an exercise diary and record how long you exercised for and how you felt afterwards – this is a great way to see how much progress you’re making. 
  • Plan your exercise for when it’s easiest to do. This may mean exercising early in the day before temptations and obstacles begin to appear. 
  • Make it easy. Get your sportswear out of the drawer and ready the evening before. Having everything you need ready can also save you time.
  • Be active with others. A great way of finding the motivation to be active is to schedule time with a friend, family member or colleague for physical activity. Not wanting to let your friend or exercise partner down can be a great motivator to show up. Or maybe you could join a running or walking group, some of these can also be free. 
  • Make physical activity part of your daily routine. Building activity into your daily routine can include things such as taking the stairs instead of the lift or walking to the shops instead of taking the car. Or if you work from home, stretch, walk, or climb your stairs on breaks. 
  • Reward yourself. When you reach a goal, you could treat yourself to a new pair of walking/running shoes or maybe you could put a pound in a jar every time you stick to a planned exercise session; you could use this towards a holiday. 
  • Remember the positives. Rather than seeing physical activity as a chore, think about how it will help to make you feel fitter, more energised, relaxed, self-confident, happier and healthier. 

For further tips and advice on keeping active, have a look at World Cancer Research Fund’s new guide, Living an Active Life