When you’re trying to increase fitness — or any new healthy behavior — this trick can help you build motivation.
Today’s part of the Make Your Move Challenge is to dig deep into exercise motivation. No matter what your age, this can be a tough one because while it’s fun to try new workouts or fitness classes, it can feel overwhelming to keep coming back.
The best place to start? Know your reason for working out.
Why Your “Why” Matters
There’s plenty of research that underscores the benefits of exercise — from lowering major health risks to improving mood to building bone density. But when you’re snuggled into the couch, it’s not studies that tend to get you moving. It’s understanding why you exercise and making it deeply meaningful to you.
“If you don’t have a personal connection to your reason for moving more, it can be easy to put off. That’s especially true when you get done with a challenge like Make Your Move and need that extra bit of motivation to keep it going,” says SilverSneakers fitness expert Larysa DiDio.
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The 5 Whys for Exercise
There’s a technique used in business called the “5 Whys” that’s designed to help management leaders solve problems by getting to their root causes. The strategy was developed by a Japanese inventor tackling issues with automotive production, and it’s been used widely to pinpoint difficulties that aren’t obvious. Since then, it’s caught on as a tactic for finding the root of just about any question that tends to have a multi-layered answer.
Let’s give it a try:
Why #1: Why do you want to keep exercising?
Although the answer might seem clear, such as “I want to stay healthy,” it’s when you begin getting more specific that your true reason comes into play. That brings us to:
Why #2: Why do you want to stay healthy?
Maybe it’s because you feel like that gives you more energy.
Why #3: Why is having more energy important?
The energy that comes from being healthy could mean it allows you to play with your grandchildren instead of just watching them play.
Why #4: Why is playing with your grandkids important?
Perhaps playing with your grandkids will allow them to feel more connected to you.
Why #5: Why do you want them to feel that way?
Coming full circle now, the answer here could be that it makes you feel happy to know you’re modeling healthy habits that they’ll take with them into adulthood.
That provides a powerful and much more specific reason to keep exercising than something vague like “staying healthy.” It anchors your action to an outcome and gets to the root of what exercise will give you. In this example, that would be love, family, connection, and legacy. Those are incredibly meaningful reasons to work out. Remembering those reasons can give you the boost you need on the days when you’re feeling more ho-hum about getting more activity, says DiDio.
How to Get Started
Keep in mind that your “why” might lead to many different outcomes. We used ‘to play with grandkids’ as our example, but you may have a vacation adventure in mind, or an upcoming celebration. No matter where the process takes you, keep getting into specifics, DiDio says.
“Goals are amazing, and can be very motivating,” she says. “But you set goals without specifics. Just saying you want to ‘exercise more,’ for instance, can be slippery because what does ‘more’ mean to you? And why do you want to do that? When you know your why, you can gain a sense of progress and set a lifelong habit.”
Try this today: Write down your first three “why” statements and save the other two for another day. “That way, you can really start to think about what’s driving you to put this habit into place and you’ll begin to embrace those reasons,” says DiDio.
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