Let’s talk about motivation — specifically, finding the motivation to exercise regularly. While research from Yale and Stanford found that physical activity can improve mental well-being even more than earning a higher income, it can be difficult to find the time (and energy!) to make movement a consistent part of our lives.

So we asked members of the Thrive Global community to share the motivational strategies they’ve used to work out consistently. Which will you try?

Put movement on your schedule

“The best way I’ve found to consistently exercise is to schedule my workouts. It’s not a very sexy or exciting method, but it works! If it happens at the same time every day and it’s just part of my daily routine, I’m much more likely to do it and stick to it. Then, once I’ve worked out, I take a minute to notice how good I feel. The simple act of stopping to notice this helps me look forward to a workout, instead of dreading it.”

—Megan Bergeron, life coach, New Brunswick, Canada

Remember: treadmill first, tech later

“As the ‘boss of me,’ I control my day and understand what can and will distract me from exercising daily. So I’ve come up with a plan that works, and there are no distractions or excuses. When I get up, I don’t allow myself near any technology until I finish walking on the treadmill. ‘Technology’ includes phones, tablets, computers, and anything that will steal my attention for more than a second. While it took me a few times to follow this rule, now it’s a habit that I’ve grown to love. Unless it’s an emergency, it can wait. If I don’t take care of myself, who will? Change your mindset and be wary of your deal-breakers. It’s time to put yourself on the top of your list. You deserve it.”

—Judy Hoberman, speaker and executive coach, Dallas, TX

Use working out for problem solving

“Moving, walking, and stretching are all part of my daily routine. It’s my gift to myself. I make a point of getting up and walking, stretching or lifting weights if I’m stuck solving a problem or trying to think about something in a new way. Getting up and into a different environment often leads me to more ‘aha’ moments. Staying active not only helps me feel better physically and mentally, it’s also my go-to when I need to solve ‘what ifs.’ I know I can do more, be more innovative, and be a better problem solver by staying active.”

—Mim Senft, founder, CEO, Blooming Grove, NY

Work towards a goal

“To motivate myself to exercise, I give myself something to work towards, like a 5K, or being able to push a certain weight on strength machines. That helps get me started and create a habit of exercising. Once I’m in the habit of doing it, it comes much easier to me.”  

—Ciara Gogan, empowerment specialist, South Shore, MA

Take comfort in the mental health benefits  

“For many of us who manage chronic anxiety or depression, regular exercise is the key to staying off medication or being on the lowest effective dosage. When I’m feeling unmotivated to exercise, I remind myself of the specific benefits for the quality and vibrancy of my mental health.”

—Shannon Thomas, certified trauma therapist, Dallas, TX

Listen to your body

“I motivate myself by stopping workouts altogether. I’m well-versed in the many benefits of exercise and have been doing it regularly since I was 15 years old (including running the New York City Marathon!). But sometimes I just don’t want to. More research or reminders of its importance only make me feel worse. So when I’m unmotivated, I take a break. I trust that my body wants something else: rest, healing, or a change in my routine. Then I wait it out with patience, kindness and curiosity, if I can. Eventually and inevitably, my body’s natural desire to get up and go kicks in again.”

—Karen Gurwitz, author, New York, NY

Reframe from “have to” to “get to”

“I’ve been working out at least six days a week for over 30 years. Instead of thinking of exercise as something that’s painful and drains me, I view my walking, weightlifting, and yoga as movement I enjoy that supports my health and well-being. I set an attainable goal of exercising for at least 20 minutes every day. It’s a priority on my to-do list. Even when I was a single mother working full-time and going to graduate school, I kept tennis shoes in the trunk of my car and took walks whenever possible!”

—Mary A. Hermann, Ph.D., professor of counseling, Richmond, VA

Focus on how good you feel

“Motivation is extremely complex. What motivates one person might not motivate the next one. However, we do have a lot of good scientific evidence that sheds some light on strategies people can use to start and stick with exercise. For example, during and after exercise, focus on why it is/was great (i.e., your positive mood after a workout, gratitude that you took time for yourself).”

—Lauren S. Tashman, Ph.D., mental performance coach; New York, NY

Connect with an exercise community

“The most motivational thing I’ve found for exercise is connecting with the community at my local gym. It has classes scheduled throughout the week, so I’ve made attending those a priority. I create my work and life schedules around the yoga and weight training classes so I’m frequently exercising with my community. We’ve grown friendly and supportive of one another, so this meets some of my social needs as well.”   

—Jenny TeGrotenhuis, couple and trauma therapist, Kennewick, WA

Call it something different

“It’s all about the mindset shift. I started calling it ‘movement’ instead of ‘exercise,’ because then I know I’m doing something I love and it’s easier to motivate myself. Exercise restricts me to specific tasks, whereas with movement, I can open myself up to a bunch of fun options. It can be dancing, walking, swimming, playing with my kids, or whatever I feel like doing for the day. All I have to do is get moving somewhere and it releases the pressure of having to exercise while looking forward to prioritizing me time.”

—Wella Liles, health coach, San Diego, CA

Make it easy to get up and go

“I eliminate any excuses by picking out my exercise clothes and work outfit for the next day the night before.”

—Shira Miller, chief communications officer, Atlanta, GA

Make it part of your morning routine

“I make getting up and working out for at least 30 minutes a non-negotiable part of my morning routine. I found it was very important to find a workout that I enjoyed at a time that would consistently work for me. I love Beachbody weightlifting programs and yoga, and I always get it done in the morning before the rest of my household wakes up. What motivates me the most is the way it makes me feel: strong, focused, and energized (both mentally and physically). Working out in the morning sets me up for success every day.”

—Michelle M., business development, Rhinelander, WI

Use memories as motivation

“I recently started working out regularly again at a local gym. The motivator was remembering how strong and lean I felt when I was in top shape about 10 years ago. That memory served as my inspiration to lose the weight I gained from menopause and become stronger physically.  After two months of strength training and cardio exercise, I’ve lost six pounds and was able to lift some furniture to lay down an area rug. Triumph!”

—Lisa Andria, life coach, Long Beach, CA

Do a dance class to boost your mood

“When you really don’t feel like killing it in the movement department but know you should, use this secret: do a dance class. Preferably one with choreography.”  

—Andréa R. Vaucher, spiritual warrior, Santa Monica, CA

Give your movement a purpose

“I give my exercise a purpose. Every mile I walk earns money for charity. To date, I have logged more than 2,500 miles across all seven continents for causes I care about, but mostly for Stand Up To Cancer. I walk for my mother, brother, sister, and several friends who have been affected by this horrific disease. This purpose drives me to walk three to five miles almost every day. I’ve entered and walked eight marathons — even in Antarctica. Training miles and marathons result in money to help others. So on days when I don’t feel up to exercising, I remember why I walk and put on my sneakers.”

—Maria Baltazzi, Ph.D., television producer, Los Angeles, CA

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  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.