Getting (and Staying) Motivated For Improved Fitness

If you’re like most people you likely made a resolution to improve yourself or your life in 2013. The top resolution this year is no surprise: People vowed to get in better shape.

A recent study showed that these commitments to self-improvement generally last about one month before motivation begins to tail off and nearly 80% end in failure.

Why does this happen? And more importantly, is there anything we can do to be a success story?

Why Staying Motivated For Fitness Is So Difficult

Staying motivated to “get in better shape” is challenging because it’s a never-ending process. While saving for a tropical vacation or learning how to knit a scarf are finite goals, “getting in shape” is not a something that ever comes to an end. This can make it difficult to stay motivated.

Recent research showed that motivation is also directly tied to the reasons we want to change:

“Most women start exercising to drop weight. But this can backfire; it can actually decrease motivation and worsen body image by fostering unhealthy ideals of thinness and creating unrealistic expectations. Not only does that set women up to fail and feel bad about their bodies, but it turns exercise into a chore, and that undermines staying motivated.” (SHARP Centre For Women)

Another reason for fading motivation is a lack of patience. A sustainable goal for weight loss is usually 1-2 pounds per week, but sometimes this does not seem like enough. It ca be hard to think of the long-term progress that will be made when the immediate results seem insignificant.

How to Stay Motivated to Get In Shape

Anyone who is serious about getting fit this year will need a plan of action. Use these suggestions for improved motivation and a better likelihood for success:

1.   Start simple.

It can be tempting to try to do it all. Striving to exercise every day, eat just broccoli and broiled chicken, and get to be by 9pm might yield significant results, but this is unrealistic for most people. Instead, pick 1 or 2 small changes that can be used as a starting point for future changes to build upon.

2.   Create a strategy.

Willpower alone is not enough to make a fitness resolution stick. That’s why it is so important to create a system that makes it harder to fall off track. Try scheduling workouts with a friend. Set an alarm that tells you it’s time to take a walk. Cleanse your house of all junk food (out of sight, out of mind!) Or, enlist some online help to create healthier exercise and eating routines. Strategies like these provide a framework for fitness that will strengthen motivation to stick with it.

3.   Make it fun.

If you hate running then don’t choose to run your way to fitness. There are many forms of exercise (e.g. swimming, fitness classes, resistance training, playing a sport, cycling, hiking, playing outdoor games with the kids, etc) that can be fun and effective.

4.   Recognize your progress.

While your end-goal may seem far in the future, there are many milestones that will be reached along the way…if you recognize them!  Try writing down mini-goals that can be accomplished every 2-4 weeks. Seeing those goals happen is exciting and will help you stay motivated to push on.

5.   Reward yourself.

If your fitness goals are worth attaining then they are also worth a reward! Take a trip, buy new shoes, go to a special restaurant, or set up another reward that will keep you in the hunt. Choose something that is big enough that it will make you think twice about skipping an exercise session or picking up a donut on the way to work.


Now Get Started!

There’s no reason to wait for 2014 to roll around before implementing some of these fitness motivation strategies. Choose a simple action to be done this week that will get you moving towards your fitness goals. Next, get accountable by telling a friend – Instantly you will feel more motivated to stick with your plan and you might even recruit a fitness buddy in the process!


How do you stay motivated to stay active and get in shape? Share your tricks in the comments section below, tweet with us @5minutesformom, or tweet the author @greenfit_health .


  1. says

    A lot of people tend to lose motivation because they don’t see results happen over night. I love your tips, Making it fun is probably best. If what your doing is boring then you are most likely going to give up quickly.

  2. says

    I totally agree Tanya. It’s so amazing to make positive lifestyle changes and then look back after a few months and say, “wow, look how far I’ve come!” Like you said, most of us just don’t want to wait a few months to see those big changes materialize.

  3. says

    When I start losing motivation is because something is out of whack- either in my thinking (expecting perfection) or my routine (too much running not enough yoga).

    I’ve started getting better at picking up on those signals sooner so I don’t completely go off the rails but it sure is hard to get back on track once you get out of habit! It sounds silly but the best trick I’ve found is to replace my workout clothes with new, cute ones. If I know I spent $ I have to get my butt in gear to justify that 😉

  4. says

    I agree with Brooke. When I start losing interest, I need to change things up. Plus, I use it as an excuse for some me time. I don’t look at it as exercise, I look at it as 1 hour with my headphones on and nobody calling my name. And I set out to run! Sometimes just changing your thinking about it helps too.

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