Everyone says that working out is great for you. They say it’s incredibly beneficial for your skin, heart, and general health and well-being. And, to be fair, that’s all true.
However, there’s something many people (and most diet/exercise/health product companies) don’t talk about. And that’s what to do when you just don’t feel like working out.
Not having the motivation to work out can be a real drag. It not only throws you off your game, but it also encourages you to be lazy and eat things that are bad for you.
Plus, the less we work out, the more we put it off, saying we’ll “do it tomorrow.” Thus, we get into a downward spiral, leading us further and further away from improved health.
So what do we do? Medical News Today has the answer:
This is the conclusion of a new study published in the journal BMC Public Health.
The research included 40 women aged between 22 and 49 years. Of these, 29 were deemed inactive (defined as exercising for under 120 minutes each week), while 11 were considered active (defined as exercising for at least 120 minutes weekly).
Study co-author Michelle Segar, of the Sport, Health, and Activity Research Policy Center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues asked the women what makes them feel happy and successful.
Additionally, the women were asked about their beliefs and attitudes toward exercise, and the researchers looked at how these conformed with their measures of happiness and success.
“A new understanding of what really motivates women might make an enormous difference in their ability to successfully incorporate physical activity into their daily routine – and have fun doing it,” notes Segar.
Beliefs about exercise negate women’s needs for happiness, success
The researchers found that the elements required for happiness and success were the same for both groups of women.
The women reported that spending time with family, friends, and even pets is important for happiness and success, as is helping other people.
Feeling relaxed and free from pressures during leisure time was another key factor for happiness and success for the women, as was accomplishing goals, ranging from completing a grocery shop to getting a promotion.
Interestingly, however, for women who were inactive, the researchers found that their beliefs about physical activity counteracted their ingredients for happiness.
For example, the inactive women believed that for exercise to be “valid,” it had to be intense, which negated their need to be relaxed in their leisure time.
What is more, women who were inactive said they felt “pressured” to exercise in order to improve their health or to lose weight, which thwarts their desire to be free from pressure during leisure time.
“You have to do this at this time, and you have to commit to these hours. You have to do this activity. You have to be so good,” one woman reported. “I feel like it’s a lot of pressure for me, with exercise, to perform and do well and commit to that schedule. I can’t commit.”
These perceived expectations about physical activity stop inactive women from reaching their exercise goals, the team notes, and reaching goals is one of their requirements for happiness and success.
A more relaxed approach to exercise might boost motivation
According to Segar and colleagues, conventional beliefs about physical activity have fueled misperceptions about exercise requirements.
“We’ve all been socialized to exercise and be physically active for the last 30 years,” notes Segar.
“The traditional recommendation we’ve learned to believe is that we should exercise at a high intensity for at least 30 minutes, for the purpose of losing weight or improving our health. Even though there are newer recommendations that permit lower-intensity activity in shorter durations most people don’t know or even believe it.”
She adds that this traditional information may have helped a small number of individuals, but for the population as a whole, it has failed to boost physical activity.
“This traditional approach to exercising might actually harm exercise motivation. Our study shows that this exercise message conflicts with and undermines the very experiences and goals most women have for themselves,” says Segar.
So what can be done for women that have a low activity level to begin with? One solution is to follow the mindset of many successfully active women.
For example, many active women report that they don’t put a ton of pressure on themselves to work out. They try to exercise consistently, but don’t beat themselves up if they miss a workout.
Exercise should be a priority. However, it doesn’t have to be the highest priority. By lowering the standard, women can stop putting themselves down for not working out. This freeing mindset can help those beginning to work out the confidence to take the pressure off themselves.
Most of all, though, we need to encourage each other to move. And to do any kind of movement that makes us happy. Instead of a regimented 30 minute routine, we need to recognize that any type of exercise is better than no exercise.
This relaxed mindset can help us take the pressure off ourselves to be “perfect.” It can also free us up to finally see the results we want, since we’re likely to stay motivated for longer periods of time.