How do I motivate myself to exercise?

  • Learn 5 steps that answer: How do I motivate myself to exercise?
  • A conversation I had at a BBQ changed me
  • Can you limit the time you spend sleeping and sitting to 23 & a half hours a day?

Recently I wrote about how much exercise is recommended to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. At the end of that post a reader left the following question:

I do find that my exercise has to be REGULAR. If I don’t have my usual long walk for a few days, my weight doesn’t change or increases slightly. A bit annoying as I don’t always have time for a 30 minute walk or swim! I am very active otherwise – any suggestions?
– Carole

Thanks for this great question Carole. It got me thinking.

Why are some people able to be active each day and others are not?

Everybody’s busy!

What’s the difference between people who move their body on a daily basis and those who can’t find the time?

What do they need to change?

After scratching my cat’s head for a bit, I realized, sometimes the only thing we need to change is:


Exercise is as important to your everyday physical and mental health as sleeping, eating, showering and brushing your teeth.

How do I motivate myself to exercise? - routines

Exercise is NOT an extra.


Everybody’s exercise needs to be regular.

So if you’re wondering: How do I motivate myself to exercise? Here’s 5 steps that will help you see exercise in a new light. (#1 is below the Quick refresher box.)

Quick refresher: Weekly Activity Guidelines

I’ve written about how much exercise is healthy here and here. In short:

I get my heart rate up for 25 minutes, 3 times a week
& I have an active lifestyle

What’s an active lifestyle?

I’m active each day by adding movement to what I’m already doing. For instance, I’ll bike to the post office near my home instead of driving.

The goal of an active lifestyle is to move your body for about 30 minutes in total each day. This means taking a brisk walk—not doing anything that requires putting on spandex. Quite the opposite. Even when you’re moving about the office in heels, you’re exercising.

I personally find it a little surprising how there are so many opportunities to incorporate movement into your day – all in ways that don’t require you to change into gym clothing!— Catherine, reader

Walking is a great option if you’re trying to save time. You don’t need to drive anywhere, use special equipment or shower after.

Keep in mind you don’t have to move your body for 30 minutes straight. Those 5 minute walks (even in heels) add up!

Okay … let’s get started!

How do I motivate myself to exercise? Step #1:


It’s much, MUCH easier to make a good decision when you understand WHY it’s a good decision.

If someone says “Don’t go in that cupboard!” You’ll definitely want to go in that cupboard. If someone says “Don’t go in that cupboard because there’s an airborne disease inside.” (This got dark quickly…) Then you’ll be less eager to open the door.

So how do I motivate myself to exercise? By taking the time to understand why exercise is so d*mn good for us.

Reading this blog post through to the end (and that includes watching one of my favourite videos!) will help you make exercise a priority.

Once you get started you’ll find exercise becomes easier and easier to do. Be patient. Being active is fun. If you don’t end up falling in love with exercise, I guarantee you’ll fall for the incredible rewards you get from moving your body. What rewards are these? Keep reading!

How do I motivate myself to exercise? - When something makes sense it's easier to do

How do I motivate myself to exercise? Step #2:


I lost weight 18 years ago when I focused on being healthy instead of thin.

Being active is not only healthy, it sparks a positive momentum in other areas of your life. For instance, exercise helps you:

  • sleep better
  • eat better
  • feel better

There’s tons of other amazing benefits to exercise. Recently I wrote about how I completed my weight-loss book. Here’s a page from my book that captures the benefits of exercise:

How do I motivate myself to exercise? - creed

How do I motivate myself to exercise? Step #3:


A. Double task
Are you able to walk part way to or from school or work? Can you walk to the bus stop that’s 2nd closest to your house or get dropped off a few blocks away from your destination? What about walking on a treadmill while you watch your favourite tv show? Pairing activities helps you get both done.

B. Make it fun!
Take time to experiment with different times of day, activities, walking routes, listening to music or a podcast, etc.

C. Build exercise into your routine
After you figure out what works for you, make it part of your day. Soon being active will become a habit, like all the other things you do daily that you don’t really have to think about—like brushing your teeth.

How do I motivate myself to exercise? Step #4


If you commit to someone, you have a 65% chance of completing a goal. But if you make a specific appointment to follow up with a person you’ve committed to, you will increase your chance of success by up to 95%.The American Society of Training and Development

What will make it easier for you to stick to your plans?

i) Walking with a friend?
ii) Offering to walk a neighbour’s dog?
iii) Checking in with someone to report how many times you exercise each week?

Building in accountability is a powerful method of getting stuff done!

How do I motivate myself to exercise? - Increase your success by 95%. How? Build in accountability

How do I motivate myself to exercise? Step #5


Next time a day passes and you aren’t active, be straight with yourself. Instead of saying:

I didn’t have time.

How do I motivate myself to exercise? - I didn't make exercise a priority

A little tough love stops you from slipping further.

Instead of looking for an excuse, get creative! If you’re busy with kids or work or another commitment, get the people you’re spending time with involved. Round up the crew at work for a walk at lunch or return home from school with your kids on foot. Everybody can benefit from getting physical each day and the earlier this habit is formed the better.

Being honest gets you to goals faster

A few years ago we had some friends over for a BBQ. At some point we got talking about people being late. I’m guilty of this for sure. So I confessed.

Without missing a beat, my friend’s husband said:

My wife always used to say: I’m late because I’m busy. Or I’m late because I’m creative and get sidetracked. Or some other excuse. Then finally I said to her, you’re late because you didn’t make being on time a priority.

I love straight shooters. They make you check yourself. This person is right. When there’s a will there’s a way. And taking responsibility for your behaviour is necessary before you can improve.

It’s also empowering to accept how much control you have over your life!

I hear this person’s voice in my head all the time. It keeps me focused on being proactive—no matter what task I’m trying to complete—rather than wasting time trying to justify a poor decision.

So now I’m going to say it to you. If you don’t exercise you simply didn’t make it a priority.

How do I motivate myself to exercise? -Take responsibility for your choices

A final but important note

In Carole’s question she states:

“If I don’t have my usual long walk for a few days, my weight doesn’t change or increases slightly.”

Over the 10 years I struggled to lose weight I weighed myself all the time. But I didn’t get healthy and lose weight for good until I stopped getting lost in the details, and that includes weighing yourself.

There’s lots of factors that can lead to your weight fluctuating on a daily basis, from water retention to gaining muscle as you get into an exercise routine. (Muscle weighs more than fat! So you’ll be leaner rather than lighter.) It’s more productive to focus on building healthy habits—then your body will naturally reach and maintain a healthy weight.

The only time I step on a scale is once a year at my doctor’s office during my annual check up. Here’s a link that helps you understand why being preoccupied by numbers makes it harder to lose weight.

What is at the Heart of this blog I LOVE questions because they help me understand what information needs to get out there. Thank you Carole for asking what so many people wonder about. You’d be surprised how often people ask me: How do I motivate myself to exercise? xo

Do you have a question? Leave it in the comments below!

Make Today Count

make today count - the10principlesThere are 24 hours in the day.

As you’ll hear in the powerful video below:

“Can you limit your time sitting or sleeping to 23 & a 1/2 hours a day?”

Don’t wait until tomorrow. Get started! Move your body today, even if it’s just for 5 minutes.

Build healthy eating and exercise habits. A healthy weight will follow.

How do I motivate myself to exercise? - Summary

Next Steps

Whether you need to work up to more exercise or down to less, it’s all about building healthy habits. But habits don’t form overnight. Sign up for my newsletter and you’ll receive one of the best strategies I learned.

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The previous 5 steps answer: How do I motivate myself to exercise? Now I want to ask you. How do you motivate yourself to exercise?