October 20


How to Improve Motivation to Exercise | What Works In Boosting Drive?

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Once we understand what drives people to keep fit, we can improve our own motivation to exercise.  We can tap into what makes the habit stick and boost our drive towards a fitter and healthier body.


Essentially, we need a way to ensure we stick with our new healthy habits.

After all, it's estimated that 50% of us drop out of a new training program in the first six months. We don't want to be one of those statistics.

Exercise drop-off after 6 months:


How can we make sure that we keep showing up and coming back to our exercise routine?

A research paper followed the fitness habits of a bunch of middle-aged women. It found that there are generally three main motivators to exercise:

Main motivators to exercise

Health Benefits

including our current and future health

Improve our Quality of Life

how well we do day-to-day

Weight loss (or gain)

essentially, changing how we look

This research revealed that those who were driven to improve their quality of life had the highest participation rate. That is, how good they felt about performing their day-to-day tasks provided the strongest drive.

Meanwhile, those who were exercising for appearance-based goals had the lowest participation rates.

This is useful information when we want to improve our own motivation to exercise.

In fact, those who were interested in improving their quality of life exercised 34% more than those who were looking to change their appearance.


Those interested in improving quality of life exercised more often

We know that appearance changes do occur with exercise.

However, focusing on goals like these at the beginning can lead to disappointment.

Changes in our appearance take time. They might seem hard to achieve, or a long way off.

When people feel like they are not receiving feedback to indicate that they are making progress, motivation suffers.

People quit when they don't feel successful

Feedback from the mirror won't happen overnight.

On the other hand, how we feel can change on a daily basis. Even hour by hour. Focusing on these immediate changes encourages more people to keep going.

In summary, focus on those changes you might feel straight away. For example, your energy levels improve or how good you feel after a workout. Or perhaps it's achieving one more push up than last time. Or squatting heavier than you could before.

To improve your motivation to exercise, go easy on the thoughts of your appearance


" I'm doing great



" I'm changing the shape of my arms



" I am going to feel amazing after this



" I'm going to look amazing after this



" I can feel it burning - that's me getting fitter - right



" This is going to give me rock-hard abs


One thing is universal. People quit when they don't feel successful.

Focus on what WILL happen after every workout.

Focus on immediate rewards like improving your mood or reducing stress.

Celebrate what's happening now, rather than what's coming down the line.

Paul Stokes Perth Personal Trainer Sports Nutritionist Group Fitness Instructor Massage Therapist

Source and further reading:

Segar M, Rebranding exercise: closing the gap between values and behavior, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2011, 8:94

About the author

Paul Stokes

Paul Stokes BSc (Hons) is a Certified Personal Trainer, Accredited Sports Nutritionist, qualified Exercise to Music Instructor, Precision Nutrition coach, Massage Therapist and teaches 8 of the Les Mills Group Exercise programs.

He currently works in the Oil & Gas industry as a Wellness Coach, imparting his vast knowledge and experience to improve the quality of life of several hundred offshore workers.

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