Why health related goals don’t motivate us

Logical rewards like “health” and “weight loss” do not motivate people to sustain health related behavior. 


Reasons for lifestyle change such as future health benefits sounds great but people quickly revert to old habits as physical activity is not made explicitly relevant to our most important daily roles and priorities. It is a fact that human beings are hard wired to choose immediate gratification over benefits that we have to wait to receive. Our health and wellbeing exists in the context of our daily, busy, crazy, complex, unpredictable daily lives. Therefore being physically active should be based on the desire to make self-care a priority and a good fit with your life.  

Our meaning for exercise powerfully influences our subsequent motivation, decisions, how we cope with challenges and whether we sustain physically active lives. Motivating reasons such as weight loss and better health do not provide immediate rewards and feedback we need to consistently do it. Most people who intend to get healthy or start exercising quit within 6 months because exercise does not appear to be essential to their daily lives in immediate and noticeable ways.   

Every failure at sticking to a workout program and every bad experience you have with exercise reinforces the meaning we hold for exercise – which is bound to be negative. We start to feel discouraged about our ability to be physically active and then become to dislike being physically active. Exercise easily becomes a chore we force ourselves to do.  

To start to see exercise as a gift rather than chore we must draw on positive experiences and create new and more motivating experiences. Even those that think they despise exercise can discover that they have at least one good exercise movement. Below are some types of physical activities you can copy and mark whether you have positive or negative feeling towards them:  

Activity type   Positive   Negative  
Gym class      
Team sports (e.g. football)     
Individual sports (e.g. tennis)     
Exercising at clubs      
Walking with a friend     
Walking outside     
Walking your dog     
Walking on a treadmill (perhaps with music or watching something)      
Using home equipment      
Group exercise (e.g. Zumba)      
Exercising while watching a video at home      
Jump roping      
Ice skating      
Daily living physical activities (household cleaning, gardening, walking to do errands)      


Adopting a positive meaning for exercise can turn it in to something we actually want to do. When we chose to make exercise part of our lives for personally compelling reasons, also choosing to move in ways that make us feel good, we are more likely to maintain exercising. We must realize there is infinite variety of physical activities and intensities that will reap benefits equal to or greater than a strict regimen of intense workouts. Take any and every opportunity to move, in any way possible, at whatever speed you like, for any amount of time. Logic doesn’t motivate us nearly as much as emotions do. This is why moving in ways that make us feel good is a better motivating factor than the promise of future health benefits.  

If you are seeking for an advice, please speak to our fitness professionals at SportsDock. 


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