With the leaves fallen, cooler air and shorter autumn days, getting motivated to move may be a little more challenging. With that in mind, I decided to take a survey from some of my friends to find out what motivates them to exercise this time of year:
Exercise Motivation: Keep Your Momentum Going
1 Keep It Fun
Finding an activity that you look forward to can help you lace up those sneakers.
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Everything from taking that line-dancing class you’ve wanted to try or walking the mall a few times before shopping could qualify. Dancing or video games that require you to be active (like Wii), or a walking sight-seeing tour can keep you active and entertained at the same time.
2 Improve Your Health
One of my friends was recently diagnosed with osteoporosis. For her, strength training is a must. Other strength training benefits include improved body function (you don’t want to injure your back while lifting that laundry basket) and improved metabolism, which can help with everything from blood pressure to cholesterol levels. Cardio benefits include a stronger heart, improved circulation, reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and some types of cancer.
3 Feel Happier
I recently attended a seminar led by positive psychologist Dr. Tal Ben Shahar on the science of happiness. His research shows that people who exercise at least three times per week for 30 minutes rate their overall happiness level higher than those who do not exercise. A little cup of sunshine, anyone?
4 Be More Productive
One of my friends who exercises in the morning feels that she gets more done throughout the day as a result. “Exercise helps me accomplish lots of other goals in life, not only fitness goals,” says Cathy. I personally feel that if I get my exercise done early, then I’ve at least accomplished something, and it was something I did for myself.
5 Enjoy Comradery
I take a weekly walk with two girlfriends — something I definitely look forward to. Yes, sometimes I want to cancel. But the fact that we have all rearranged our lives to get together motivates me to keep the commitment. Would I be walking at 6 pm on a Wednesday night if I didn’t have this on-going date with them? Heck no! I’m sure I would find other things to do….like laundry, washing dishes, talking on the phone, surfing Facebook…pretty much anything. During our walks, we chat about life, help solve each other’s problems, laugh, and acknowledge each other’s accomplishments while meeting our exercise goals.
6 Take It Indoors
One of my friends looks for enjoyable indoor activities, like Pilates or yoga, to substitute her outdoor exercise when the temps fall below her comfort level. Bonus: It can introduce new activities to keep things interesting and also is the essence of cross training. Doing something different or “mixing it up” is the perfect recipe to overcome a plateau as well.
7 Take It Outdoors
If it works for you, enjoy outside activities, too. Depending on where you live, a variety of delights await you — fresh air, people watching, nature, different levels of activity. During this time of year, the afternoons are a little warmer. “I just have to get outside and take advantage of it,” says Stacey. Plus you receive an extra shot of Vitamin D.
8 Improve Your Flexibility
My mother, who has fibromyalgia, finds that exercise increases her flexibility, which makes her body feel better. Warm muscles stretch better, too. Think of your muscles like taffy: when taffy is cold, it’s brittle; when it’s warm, it’s more pliable. Stretching improves the range of motion in a joint, makes you less prone to injury, and helps reduce soreness the day after.
9 Sleep More Peacefully
According to the National Sleep Foundation, exercise boosts your sleep power. Their research found just one exercise session of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (e.g., walking) reduced the time it took to fall asleep and increased the length of sleep of people with chronic insomnia compared to a night in which they did not exercise (Passos et al., 2010). Also, after 4 to 24 weeks of regular exercise, adults with insomnia fell asleep more quickly, slept slightly longer, and had better sleep quality than before they began exercising (Guilleminault et al., 1995; Passos et al., 2011; Reid et al., 2010).
10 Reduce Stress!
The number one reason that motivates my friends to work out is to reduce stress. Releasing feel-good hormones, breaking out a sweat, deep breathing, and just taking a break from the demands of life helped improve their mood and deal with life better. I also find a long run to be meditative and restorative.
So don’t let the shorter, darker days of autumn and winter keep you cuddled up on the couch — although that’s good sometimes! Discovering new ways to motivate yourself to move can keep you on track during the changing seasons ahead.
What motivates you to exercise during this time of year?