If you only rely on motivation to exercise, you may find that you’re not as active as you’d like to be. Movement of any kind offers a wide range of health benefits including mental, emotional, and physical health (but we didn’t need to tell you that!). Instead of waiting to feel motivated to move, we recommend creating systems to make it the easy and obvious choice. 

Here are our top tips to keep yourself active when motivation drops.

  • Get an accountability partner. Schedule a weekly workout date with a friend, ask a friend or family member to hold you accountable, or even set up a text chain with a few friends to hold each other accountable. Just the simple act of having to “report” to someone that you did it will get you out the door more often than not. If having an actual person check in with you doesn’t jive, try printing out a blank calendar and checking off every day you do something active. The visual reminder will keep you going and then you can marvel in your accomplishments each month.
  • Set small, achievable goals. Having a goal to work towards can be a really helpful way to increase motivation and increase action. Keep these goals bite size and then build on them as you check them off. This could include increasing the weight you’re using at the gym, increasing the miles or minutes you walk or run, or creating small steps that lead to a bigger goal of hiking a new trail.
  • Add it to your calendar. Make exercise an appointment just like any other appointment that’s non-negotiable. We recommend scheduling your workouts for the week and blocking the time. 
  • Find activities you love. The best way to stay active is to do something you enjoy. Don’t love running? Walking is just as good! Can’t imagine spending your summer indoors at a gym? Head out for a hike or a bike ride. Dance. Skate. Jump rope. Garden. There are so many ways to be active that can give you all of the same benefits as more traditional exercise.
  • Integrate it into your life. If time is a big barrier, find ways to make it part of your day. If you are taking your kids to sports practices or other activities, walk or run around the field or building while they play. If you’re at home with little kids, run around with them outside or take them to the park and don’t be afraid to climb and jump just like them. If your desk job is keeping you from staying active, try adding in five to 10 minute walk breaks a few times per day. The possibilities are endless. You just have to get a little creative.
  • Remove the barriers. If you’re struggling to get out of bed in the morning, set your alarm across the room so you have to get up. If when you get home from work, you’re tempted to sit on the coach instead of exercise, don’t go home first. Bring your workout clothes to the office and change and go from there. Identify any barriers that give you the opportunity to skip out on your activity and find a way to eliminate them.
  • Keep a reminder of your why. While you can’t rely on daily motivation, knowing the reason you choose to stay active will help you get off the couch or out of bed. Make a list of all of the reasons you choose to keep your body moving and put that list somewhere that you can look at quickly when you feel the motivation drop (your phone or sticky notes on your desk are a great place to start).

Sarah Anzlovar, MS, RDN, LDN is a registered dietitian, certified intuitive eating counselor, and the owner of Sarah Gold Nutrition, a virtual private practice and nutrition communications consulting business in the suburbs of Boston. She empowers busy women to ditch diets and learn to build sustainable healthy habits to feel their best.

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