The New York Times recently reported that for people to be motivated to exercise, they need to see the benefits, like, right now!
We are a society that craves immediate gratification, so I get it. People want to do things that pay off immediately via positive reinforcement. If something feels good, you’ll do it again and again. This is why it’s critical to engage in activities that you either enjoy doing, or at least can find a way to enjoy. And marketers need to get on it. It seems the mountains of evidence surrounding how exercise can stave off future health risks isn’t enough.
In the article, Michelle L. Segar, of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender says that in order to encourage people to opt for fitness, women need to see portrayals of how happy they can be instantly following a workout. Her ideal PSA would show a woman, “…walking around the block after dinner with her children and say[ing], ‘This is great. I can fit in fitness, spend quality time with my kids, and at the same time teach them how important exercise is.’”
And she’s right. Family walks after dinners are fun and they make you feel like a good parent. My advice is to ban electronic devices on such walks so that you can, you know, talk to each other, thus furthering the feel good vibes.
Segar emphasizes that we need to “reframe the message” around fitness. An immediate reward people can strive for is feeling good about having completed the task. I recently saw an image on Facebook that said, “‘Damn I regret that workout,’ said no one ever.” And I couldn’t agree more.
If you do an early morning workout it feels great because you got that sucker done. Do you know how great it feels to have a job completed that you don’t have to worry about for the rest of the day? This is one of the reasons people who exercise first thing in the morning have the highest adherence rates.
Some days I don’t feel like exercising, but I force myself to and afterwards I feel an amazing boost in my brain from having done it – especially since I really didn’t want to. The sense of accomplishment from exercise can be a powerful reinforcement mechanism.
There are other ways to make exercise fun, and having it be social is one of the best tricks I know. If there is a friend or group of people you enjoy being with, make exercise a part of your get-togethers. If your house is constantly filled with the noise of screaming kids, video games, and snoring bed partners then a peaceful jog listening to your music at whatever volume you decide can feel great.
One of the things I love about running is leaving my phone behind. For an hour or so the only technology is my iPod on shuffle mode. No emails, texts or calls. If you want to communicate with me, you’ll have to wait until the run is over, or come find me.
If weight loss is your goal you can power through unpleasant exercise and diet regimens by sheer force of will. But once you do achieve your goals, the motivation to keep it up can often wane because you never learned to love the journey, and the flab comes back.
Focus on the fitness journey as something enjoyable, and you’ll actually do it. Enjoy it for the energy boost, good mood and confidence it will give you today…everything else will fall into place.