Using weight loss as exercise motivation isn’t always entirely effective.
“[It’s] considered ‘extrinsic motivation,’” says Lisa Hisscock, an ACE certified personal trainer and Interval Training Rx coach. “Other examples include a beach vacation, turning heads at a reunion, or fitting into a certain sized jean. It’s okay to use this type motivation to get you started, but for exercise to become part of your life, you need to find your ‘intrinsic motivation,’” she said.
This can include things like improved mood, stress reduction, or setting an example for others; the list is essentially endless because you can choose any internal reason—just make sure it’s meaningful and important to you.
If you’re not sure where to find your intrinsic motivation, Hisscock says you should ask yourself: Why would I get out of bed on a cold, dark, winter morning to knock out a workout even when I’m at my ideal weight?
“Find the authentic answer to that, commit it to memory, and that is your ‘magic pill’ for exercise adherence,” she said.
And if you need some help getting your brainstorm started, first consider these eleven exercise benefits that are way better than weight loss.
Chris Cooper, a Precision Nutrition coach and NSCA certified fitness professional says that compared to weight loss, tracking and detecting gains in your level of strength is much easier. “You can look back after a month and see that you are doing more than you were before,” he said. “Because that is what strength is, it's the ability to do today what you previously couldn't do a week, a month, or a year ago.”
A large body of research points to a link between exercise and happiness. “People who exercise consistently are happier than those who don’t,” says Saul Juan Antonio Cuautle, a certified personal trainer and the CEO and Founder of MOS Training Systems. “Biologically, exercise releases endorphins and brain chemicals that bring the same happy feeling as a smiling baby or a bar of chocolate.”
Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that compared with obesity, a sedentary lifestyle may increase risk of premature death by about 50 percent. Data from the study showed that exercisers who burn between 90 and 110 calories a day could reduce the risk of premature death by anywhere from 16 to 30 percent. “You’re only given one body, and it’s in a fight against time.” says Cuautle. “If you don’t show care and respect for your body, who will?”
“Exercise is a natural cup of coffee for the body and mind,” says Cuautle. “All the increased blood flow will make you more alert, make it easier for you to concentrate, and fight off that sluggish feeling that too much work and too many obligations can bring.”
“Exercise can be a sanctuary for the body and mind,” says Cuautle. “It can be the one thing that clears your mind when nothing else can. You may not always get to yell at your boss or punch the wall, but you can always go for a run with good music. Instead of letting stress eat away at you, let exercise be on your side as another stress outlet.”
In The Princess Bride, the wise Count Rugen tells Prince Humperdinck, “If you haven't got your health, then you haven't got anything.” Good health is essential for a good life, and exercise helps to maintain our overall health in so many ways. “Exercise lowers blood pressure, decreases cholesterol, and reduces the risk for many diseases,” says Sean Bykerk, a body transformation expert and owner of Breakthrough Bootcamp in Mississauga, Ontario.
Bykerk says that one of the best reasons to shift your focus away from weight loss is because you’ll find more enjoyment in exercise. You’ll be more focused on the activity, rather than the result, he explained. “Do something that you enjoy doing rather than something that you think will bring the greatest results,” he said. “You're far more likely to stick to an exercise program if you genuinely enjoy it.”
Obsessing over weight loss can perpetuate poor body image, Bykerk explained. “My most successful clients prioritize health over vanity, and subsequently transformed their body as a side effect.”
“Most people start to exercise because they want to lose weight, and there is nothing wrong with this, but the biggest rewards with exercise are not measured by a scale,” says Peter Ellison, an ACSM certified personal trainer and the Physical Wellness Director at FitRx in Brentwood, Tenn. “Exercise for health can be more effective and rewarding when compared to exercising for weight loss only. Focusing on health with exercise will open the door to numerous more benefits.”
“We often don't look skin deep into our bodies to see that when working out, we are strengthening our hearts, lungs, muscles, and minds in order to complete everyday tasks,” says Kasey Arena, a certified personal trainer, co-author of BODYpeace, and creator of PowerCakes.net “Walking up a flight of stairs without getting winded or picking up a box on moving day are two things that working out can help with instead of focusing only on the five pounds you want to lose.”