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Mental Strategies For Staying Motivated to Exercise

Mental Strategies For Staying Motivated to Exercise

If you find yourself tempted to forgo exercise, remind yourself why you started in the first place: to become stronger and healthier. Recalling why your exercise program exists will help keep motivation high.

If your exercise routine becomes mundane, try new activities or meet people with similar interests to spice up the experience and increase likelihood of staying with it. The more fun you have while exercising, the greater chance it has of sticking around!

Mental Strategies For Staying Motivated to Exercise

Goal Setting and Visualization

One effective strategy for staying motivated when exercising is setting specific goals. Setting an objective like 30 minutes of cardio three times weekly or enrolling in an upcoming group fitness class can keep you focused and accountable to staying on the exercise regimen.

Visualization can be an invaluable aid when it comes to goal setting. By visualizing the positive outcomes of your goals, visualization can boost motivation and fuel determination while also helping identify any obstacles which might hinder progress and devise strategies to overcome them.


Olympic skier Mikaela Shiffrin practices visualizing her race before she steps onto the slopes, similar to mental rehearsal or creating a vision board containing physical items that symbolize your goals and aspirations. You too can employ similar visualization strategies.

Reminding yourself why you began exercising is equally essential to staying on the plan. Running your first 5K or mastering barbell deadlift, regular exercise can bring numerous other benefits beyond slimmer waistlines and increased muscle mass; such as decreased stress and anxiety levels, improved cognitive function, boosted mood and better sleep. Keep these advantages in mind whenever feeling discouraged about sticking with an exercise program.

Positive Self-Talk

Positive self-talk can help individuals overcome challenges associated with exercise, such as physical discomfort or self-doubt. Additionally, positive self-talk is used to increase motivation and maintain adherence to training programs. Experimentation is key when selecting an approach that resonates personally to develop a tailored positive self-talk practice.

To practice positive self-talk, begin by recognizing negative thoughts that arise and questioning if they are valid or logical. If so, challenge these thoughts by thinking about an opposing thought and focusing on it instead – be it using a journal or just remembering something joyful that brings you pleasure; many athletes find it helpful to think ahead to their workout endpoint as part of this practice.

Reading positive affirmations aloud or to a friend can also help with positive self-talk, particularly for those struggling with negativity or more naturally pessimistic tendencies. Engaging in this practice frequently can also prevent downward spirals; finding an accountability partner who will support and motivate you can be especially helpful here.

Accountability Partnerships:

Accountability partners can be an invaluable source of motivation. Accountability partners may include friends, coworkers, family members or professional coaches, trainers, therapists, counselors or mentors; the key component is an underlying desire to succeed on both parts of an accountability relationship; goals should be set together with expectations communicated on how often to check-in; sharing activities can also make for more enjoyable connections between both partners.

Good accountability partners care deeply about your goals and progress, pushing you when necessary to perform at your desired level. They offer honest feedback even if it may be hard to hear.

Celebrate your successes with an accountability partner; this can increase motivation and help keep you on the right track when feeling down. When in doubt, seek advice from an expert; for example if mental health issues such as low self-esteem or social anxiety are hindering your exercise efforts, consulting a therapist could prove beneficial in teaching you strategies to stay motivated while treating the source.

Celebrating Milestones

While having long-term goals is crucial, it’s also essential to recognize and celebrate milestones along the way. Even seemingly minor mini goals can help build momentum and motivate you towards a goal.

As you work toward your fitness goal of running a 5K, set smaller, measurable milestones along the way such as taking five classes consecutively or doing a certain number of push-ups. Once these milestones have been reached, take time to reflect upon all the hard work and determination it took to reach them – it will serve as an amazing reminder of who you are as an individual and encourage further pursuit of fitness goals.

Remind yourself of the positive effect regular exercise can have on both your physical and emotional health. Studies have revealed its importance for mood enhancement, self-esteem enhancement, improved cognitive function/memory enhancement and sleep quality improvements; keeping these benefits front of mind may help encourage you to stick with your fitness regime even on days you don’t feel like working out.

Variety and Fun

Exercise that suits your interests – running, lifting weights, playing tennis or pickleball, dancing, kayaking or simply walking the dog can be highly motivating. Consider joining a group fitness class with friends for even greater fun and social activity!

Reward yourself with small pleasures as another way of staying motivated, such as wearing new workout gear you love or planning an adventure/treat once every month. By creating positive associations between rewards and experiences (i.e. “You’ll lose weight!), rather than using them as motivation (“You’ll do better!”). This way your reward becomes something positive that keeps you on the path towards weight loss!

Mental health conditions such as low self-esteem or depression may make staying motivated to exercise difficult, which is why working with a therapist is key to staying on the path toward better mental and physical health. They will teach strategies to increase motivation while creating a realistic yet healthy exercise routine tailored specifically for you – including regular physical activity which will make you feel better overall and give more energy regardless of age or fitness level. Therapists will also assist in building support networks to hold you accountable and offer encouragement throughout your goals journey.

Mindfulness and Stress Management

Mindfulness techniques that focus on being present and nonjudgmental thoughts may help motivate you to exercise. Mindfulness also reduces stress, which has negative impacts on both mind and body – leading to depression and high blood pressure among other problems. A study published by “Mental Health and Physical Activity” indicated that pairing mindfulness training with exercise may improve psychological well-being more than either alone.

Studies have demonstrated the power of mindfulness meditation to alleviate symptoms associated with anxiety, depression and stress; improve self-esteem and lower burnout levels; increase self-compassion; and lower burnout levels. A recent meta-analysis by Spinelli et al. reviewed 38 RCTs conducted to measure mindfulness’ effectiveness on both qualified and trainee healthcare professionals (HCPs). Their research concluded that mindfulness significantly decreased anxiety, depression and psychological distress among HCPs as well as increasing self-compassion and overall wellbeing.

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Integrating mindfulness into your everyday routine doesn’t need to be challenging or time consuming; all it requires is simple mindfulness techniques like the Body Scan or Box Breathing that you can try immediately – like inhale for four counts, hold for seven and exhale eight; both of these techniques help calm anxiety levels.


As part of your exercise motivation strategy, it’s essential to identify any mental obstacles. For instance, if exercise seems like a chore or makes you feel bad, perhaps an attitude adjustment might help.

Setting an exercise goal and making it non-negotiable are effective ways of creating a regular workout regimen and sticking to it. Setting clear objectives such as walking or running three times weekly or attending yoga class every other day will also serve as motivation; for example, seeing that your jeans fit more loosely or your back feels less stiff after getting up from your desk can serve as positive reinforcement.

Extrinsic motivation may drive many to start exercising – whether they want to look their best in their favorite pair of pants or train for a marathon – however research suggests intrinsic motivation may be more sustainable in the long run. Therefore, it would be wiser to find an activity which brings joy and provides intrinsic motivation from within yourself.


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