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More PsychNotes: Performance, Success and Goal Attainment

January 10, 2018       

Staying Motivated with a New Exercise Program
by Monica A. Frank, PhD

stretching on a pier Many people start exercising this time of year because they know it is healthy for them and to get back into shape after the holiday indulgences. Unfortunately, many people don't continue after the first few weeks.

One way to stay motivated and return to your plan day after day is to increase your positive memories of the exercise according to researchers Zenko and colleagues (2016). How can you do this when starting exercise is often painful and unpleasant? And a basic principle of motivational theory is that we tend to do what is pleasant and avoid what is unpleasant?

Simply decreasing your intensity at the end of your exercise session can increase your positive memories of the exercise. The most important aspect of exercise isn't how vigorous it is but whether you can develop a routine of regular exercise. Intensity can be increased over time as you are able to tolerate it.

So, do something easier and more pleasant at the end of your exercise session and you are more likely to return. Oh, and once you are in an exercise routine, this same method can apply to other activities such as unpleasant work tasks.

Zenko, Z., Ekkekakis, P. and Ariely, D. (2016). Can You Have Your Vigorous Exercise and Enjoy It Too? Ramping Intensity Down Increases Postexercise, Remembered, and Forecasted Pleasure. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 38, 149 -159. DOI:10.1123/jsep.2015-0286.

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