One of the singles groups I’m member of recently posted a speed dating event for “Fit and Active Singles.” I’ll admit I was interested when I saw it, and then instantly remembered that I am not, in fact, a truly “fit and active single.” While the idea of fitness is something I say I value, I am not in perfect shape. I have good weeks when I’m at the gym four to five days, and other weeks when I’m there for maybe two. I realize it’s much easier to say I like exercise and fitness than to actually live the lifestyle.
New studies show that I’m not the only person who has this problem, and I’m not the only person who needs to reassess her workout motivations. On Thursday, I talked about how to change your job search attitude. Today, I’m going to talk about changing your workout attitude.
If losing weight and general health aren’t enough to get us into the gym regularly, than what will get us there? New York Times Personal Health Writer Jane Brody tackled the question in her article, “Changing Our Tune on Exercise.” After analyzing recent reports and studies from doctors, she learned that it’s all about the marketing:
Now research by psychologists strongly suggests it’s time to stop thinking of future health, weight loss and body image as motivators for exercise. Instead, these experts recommend a strategy marketers use to sell products: portray physical activity as a way to enhance current well-being and happiness.”
Brody references advice from Dr. Michelle L. Segar, a research investigator at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan. Dr. Segar said it’s about the immediate appeal, and less about the far-off, long term goal. If we think of exercising as making us feel better and happier in the present, we’re more likely to keep going to the gym. Dr. Segar said that weight loss and distant health concerns are not the best motivators:
‘Physical activity is an elixir of life, but we’re not teaching people that. We’re telling them it’s a pill to take or a punishment for bad numbers on a scale. Sustaining physical activity is a motivational and emotional issue, not a medical one.’ ”
If your reason for going to the gym is purely to shed pounds within a certain time frame, you’ll likely be disappointed. Unless you change your diet, you probably won’t drop the pounds instantly, and it’s easy to get discouraged when you don’t see the numbers on the scale go down.
Rethink your reasons for working out, and keep the benefits rooted in the present. How does exercising make you feel? What changes do you notice in your body and mind during a good workout week? While a full summer of working out hasn’t caused me to drop a large number of pounds, my body feels better and my muscles are more toned. I feel like I have more energy, and to me, that is important.
Maybe, if I keep up with more workouts, I’ll be headed out to a dating event for fit and active singles by the end of next year! Though improving my appearance as I re-enter the dating world is certainly a bonus, I know it shouldn’t be my motivator. My motivation should be, above all, improving me and my quality of life.
Read more research and analysis in Brody’s article.