Health & Wellness

Activate your attitude: getting motivated to exercise

8 December 2015
Dr Craig Nossel, Head of Discovery Vitality Wellness

Fifty percent of people who start an exercise programme drop out in the first six months, which is a scary thought if you have just started a new exercise regime. So learn how to be part of the 50% that stick it out with these motivational tips.

How to get motivated for exercise training

Exercise knowledge vs. action

Becoming more active is not just about knowing the facts or benefits of exercise otherwise everyone would be regularly active. From the availability of information perspective, you would expect the US to be the nation with the fittest, leanest and healthiest inhabitants worldwide. Yet they top the scales when we look at obesity rankings and incidence of various chronic diseases of lifestyle.

Becoming more active is not just about knowing the facts or benefits of exercise otherwise everyone would be regularly active. From the availability of information perspective, you would expect the US to be the nation with the fittest, leanest and healthiest inhabitants worldwide. Yet they top the scales when we look at obesity rankings and incidence of various chronic diseases of lifestyle.

Unfortunately, the situation in South Africa is not much better: 56% of South African women and 28% of South African men are classified as overweight,  and one in three men and one in four women will suffer from cardiovascular disease before they reach the age of 60. By the year 2020, heart disease and then major depression, are predicted to be the top two causes of death in South Africa. Incidentally, inactivity is a major risk factor for both of these diseases, which explains a great deal.

Lack of exercise is a worldwide problem seeping down to our children, with one third of all young people not doing enough physical activity. From Argentina to Zambia, the World Health Organization (WHO) found most children aren’t getting enough exercise and it made no difference if they lived in a rich or a poor country.

Attitude barriers to exercising

However, planning is only part of the solution, there is much more to it, which often boils down to our attitude. Often we don’t even reach the planning stage, because internal and external barriers to the idea of exercise prevent us from making physical activity a reality in our lives. Various world-renowned psychologists met in the early 90s, and having reviewed extensive literature on the topic, found that some of the main barriers that people had were:

  • Not enough time
  • Fear of being injured
  • Inconvenience
  • Boredom
  • Lack of motivation, encouragement and support
  • Lack of self-confidence or self-management skills.

Confronting exercise barriers

Confronting these barriers and dealing with them is where it all starts and basically where you need to start if you want to change your attitude permanently. Ask yourself the following questions and be honest with yourself:

  • What are my “real” barriers and what barriers could I deal with?
  • “How can I make the necessary adjustments and arrangements in my life?”

Your attitude to exercising 

The whole behaviour modification is not all that simple and there are really several stages we should recognise that we have to pass through. In 1992, Prochaska, a famous behavioural psychologist identified these five stages of behaviour change that are needed to adjust first your attitude and then your actions. Identify which stage you are at:

Pre-contemplation: You are not considering changing your behaviour, for example becoming active

Contemplation: You are thinking about changing your behaviour in the next six months

Preparation: You are preparing for the change and are in fact already making some positive adjustments

Action: You have implemented the behaviour change but for a period less than six months

Maintenance: You have implemented the behaviour change for longer than six months.

Research shows that within six months of starting an exercise programme, 50% of participants drop out. Therefore it makes sense that if you can motivate yourself and be disciplined during the first six months of your programme, you are much more likely to succeed long term!

In summary:

  • The main barrier to exercise is not knowledge but attitude
  • Modern living allows us to become lazy, so taking the time for formal exercise is important for our long-term health
  • There can be many mental barriers to exercising, so confronting these is the first step before starting an exercise regime
  • The first six months are critical to turning your exercise routine into habit and reducing the risk of quitting.

Back to Health & Wellness