So many of us talk about finding time to exercise, but sometimes life gets in the way, and making it to the gym has to take a backseat for the time being. Perhaps you’ve needed time to recover from an injury or procedure, or work has been especially hectic lately, or you’ve had your hands full with family. Whatever the reason you’ve been on hiatus from regular physical fitness, you’re ready to get back into the swing of things. But like all goals, starting fresh is difficult, and research shows that taking on a new daily habit requires repeat performance.
If you’re struggling to find the motivation to make working out a consistent habit again, here are three science-backed ways that will help you make your workouts more enjoyable so you look forward to moving again.
Play upbeat music
We all know that a great playlist can make or break a workout, and science agrees: A recent study from the University of British Columbia found that insufficiently active people worked harder in their workouts and enjoyed them more when listening to upbeat music. “Music is typically used as a dissociative strategy,” study co-author Matthew Stork, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, notes about his team’s research. “This means that it can draw your attention away from the body’s physiological responses to exercise such as increased heart rate or sore muscles.” The study proves that it is possible to distract your mind with upbeat music when enduring exercise, and that’s reason enough to spend an extra few minutes on your gym playlist.
Find a workout buddy (or a whole team!)
Keeping up with a consistent habit is always easier when you have a friend or support group to help hold you accountable, and recently reported data from 1.2 million people in the U.S. proves this to be true. The study, published in The Lancet, found that people who exercised regularly reported one-and-a-half fewer poor mental health days than those who did not — and those who exercised on a team enjoyed the highest levels of mental well-being. This finding aligns with previous research proving the importance of having social support from peers, as the surrounding encouragement promotes community and connection.
When it feels hard, try smiling
It might feel counterintuitive in the moment, but researchers have found that smiling during a workout (even if it’s forced) can make your exercise more enjoyable, and can even encourage you to keep going when you’re feeling the burn. In a 2018 study, scientists from the Ulster University in Northern Ireland and Swansea University in Wales gathered a group of recreational runners, and asked half of them to smile while running, and half of them to frown. They found that the group that continued to smile as their runs increased in difficulty showed higher performance and a more positive outlook throughout their exercise. The next time you’re thinking of throwing in the towel, try throwing on a smile instead.
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