DON’T Exercise For Weight Loss!

Everybody promotes the benefits of exercise for weight loss.  And yes, becoming more active is one of the best ways to increase your day’s calorie expenditure if your goal is weight loss.  However, is weight loss a good motivator for getting someone moving?

Turns out, it’s not.  In fact, it’s one of the WORST motivators.  People who said their reason for getting active was to lose weight were LEAST likely to exercise consistently.

What motivates someone to lose weight?  The most common reason is to obtain someone ELSE’s approval.  You might want to look better in a swimsuit or put a spark back in your marriage, or bring your cholesterol test results or blood sugars under better control.  The sad truth is that weight loss is usually motivated by outside factors rather than by a true and pure desire to slim down.

So if weight loss isn’t a good motivator for exercise, what is?  Here are some suggestions:

1.  Pure enjoyment.  I take care of quite a few runners.  I am a runner myself.  I don’t run to lose or maintain weight (although it is a nice side benefit) but just because I love running.  Runners will run until their toenails fall off altogether.  (Unfortunately I have a case of plantar fasciitis right now that is keeping me from running.)

Those who love tennis will play through excruciating elbow pain.  Those who love martial arts or boxing will suffer all kinds of trauma.  Family doctors are well accustomed to having to put the kibosh on our crazy sports-injured patients’ plans to do further harm to themselves in their love of their sport.  We just do it because we love it!

2.  “Me” time.  So maybe there isn’t an exercise that you love like the fitness fanatics in #1 above.  There are ways to make your exercise a getaway as well.  For instance, I have taken to watching movies and TV shows on Netflix while I’m on the treadmill.  With my busy life, this is the ONLY time I get to watch any TV or movies.  So on those crazy days when you’re just too tired to climb on the stationary bike or treadmill, you can bribe yourself also with a good movie or TV show.

3. “Us” time.  If you have a workout buddy it’s hard to back out of a workout date.  Call a good friend and ask him or her if they would like to set up a regular time for a brisk walk or a fitness class.  Tell your buddy you could use a spotter for some extra-heavy sets.  Try a new form of exercise with your spouse.  My husband and I have practiced martial arts for years and now our boys do too.  Making it a family affair keeps us engaged and showing up even on days when ONE of us really doesn’t feel like going.

4. Health benefits.  Your body works better when you’re active.  Your digestion moves along better and you’ll have less problem with constipation.  Natural endorphins are released which relieve stress, anxiety and depression.  Sleep quality improves with exercise.  Lung function improves which means you’ll huff and puff less when chasing the kids and grandkids.

There are so many good reasons to get active and fit, you’re not limited to the promise of weight loss!  What will get you to the gym or motivate you to lace up your sneakers after a long day at work, when all you want to do is park yourself on the couch in front of the TV?  Be creative and find something you truly love!  If all else fails, create an irresistible incentive that will get you moving.

Guess what!  You’ll probably lose weight too 🙂

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