Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

How to Achieve Lasting Motivation to Exercise

Andrew Merle
3 min readFeb 7

We all know that exercise is good for us.

But less than half of American adults meet the physical activity guidelines for aerobic exercise (30 mins per day, 5 days per week), less than 1/3 meet the recommendations for muscle-strengthening activity (2x per week), and not even 1/4 meet the guidelines for both.

The problem isn’t a lack of knowledge. The problem is a lack of sustained motivation.

As someone who has been exercising regularly for over 20 years, I know where this lasting motivation needs to come from.

For most of us, the promise of good health 10, 15, or 20 years down the line isn’t good enough. It is really hard to stick with something if the chief benefit is something we won’t experience until a distant future.

Making decisions for the long run is smart, but very few people are willing to endure pain today, in order to benefit their future self.

The key is to create short-term benefits — something you will experience immediately after you’ve completed a workout.

This article is about exercise, but this principle holds true for all hard things.

For me, this is easy. This is because exercise naturally produces a mental boost for me for hours after the workout is over.

I exercise every morning because it enables me to think more clearly for the rest of the day.

Exercise makes me calmer, more productive, and happier immediately. This is why I do it, and why I’m motivated to do it every single day. I simply never go into a big day without exercising first because I know exercise increases my chances for a favorable outcome.

Many other people experience this “high” following exercise and credit exercise for much of their professional and personal success. If this is you, you already are enjoying the short-term effects and that’s all the motivation you need to stick with it.

But if you’re not yet getting a mental boost from exercise, you’ll need to build in other short-term rewards to stick with this practice.

It’s ok to incentivize yourself in this manner. For example, for every morning you work out, you could agree to watch your favorite…

Andrew Merle

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