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Exercise: Nine tips for staying motivated to exercise.

Posted Aug 23 2008 3:15pm

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.

This Wednesday: Nine tips for staying motivated to exercise.

Everyone knows that exercise is a KEY element to good health. The trick is keeping yourself motivated to exercise, if you’re a person who naturally relapses into the couch-potato pose.

It took me years of prodding, but I’ve finally managed to turn myself into a dedicated exerciser. I never push myself very hard (at all), but I do manage to stick with a routine.

Personally, I find it more motivating to think about short-term gratification like “I’ll sleep better” than long-term considerations like “I’ll live longer” or “If I have surgery, I’ll recover quicker.”

Here are some things to keep in mind, if you’re trying to keep yourself motivated to exercise:

1. Exercise boosts energy . It took me a long time to notice that I’d drag myself to the gym, work out for forty minutes, and leave feeling far more energetic than when I went in.

2. Exercise provides an outlet for feelings of pent-up hostility, irritation, and anger . I always find that I’m far calmer and more forbearing on days when I’ve exercised. I have a jittery, high-strung nature, and exercising takes the edge off.

3. Repetitive, rhythmic motion of exercises like walking and running brings a serene mood and clarifies thinking . I’ve had all my best writing ideas when walking or running, and sometimes assign myself a particular problem to think over during a walk.

4. Sticking to an exercise regime raises your self-esteem for the very fact that you’re sticking to an exercise regime.

5. Exercise offers a chance to be alone and uninterrupted—a relief if, like me, you’re often surrounded by distractions. Or, if you prefer, exercise also offers a chance to get together with other people --a relief if, like me, you spend a lot of time working alone. I have both kinds of exercise during my week.

6. Regular exercise helps to keep your body chemicals in balance . When you experience stress, your body prepares for “fight or flight” with a huge number of biochemical reactions. A stressful event these days, however, is more likely to require a phone call than a sprint uphill. The potentially damaging byproducts of the stress response, such as cortisol, nevertheless continue to pump through the body, and exercise helps offset that effect.

7. Exercise helps you fall asleep more easily and sleep more deeply . The Big Man really notices this in himself.

8. Pure vanity can be a good motivator . Remember that people who exercise move more easily and energetically, and appear more youthful.

9. When I don’t feel like exercising, I remind myself how lucky I am to be able to move easily and without pain—no wheelchair, no crutches, no brace, no trick knee or bad back.

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