Why is it so hard for people to engage in more exercise? Have you ever thought about this? Most people are aware of the benefits of exercise, but for whatever reason, they just don’t seem to find a reason to exercise. An article in the Health Psychology (Health Psychology, Vol 30(1), Jan 2011, 67-74. doi: 10.1037/a0021859) researchers revealed that people often underestimate how much they are going to enjoy exercising. That is, if people are asked how much they will enjoy their exercise before they start, and then report their actual feelings afterwards, they actually report enjoying the exercise more than they thought they would. A key finding from this study is the impact underestimating enjoyment has on a person’s intention to exercise.
Think about that for a moment. If people perceive that their level of enjoyment from exercise won’t be that great, it’s not hard to see why people may choose to avoid exercise. It’s suggested that a person’s perception is greatly influenced by the beginning of the workout, in that people often believe that the beginning of the workout will be unpleasant.
So what’s one key to increasing your own amount of exercise? Improving your ability to correctly estimate how much you’ll enjoy exercising, particularly at the beginning of the activity. How can we do this? Spend some time thinking about what it is that you enjoy about the form of exercise, and focus on this at times when you are trying to decide to engage in exercise or not. Pay special attention to the beginning of the exercise activity, try and determine what you enjoy about this portion of the exercise. Additionally, try to think of ways you can improve your level of enjoyment at the beginning of the exercise, and think about any modifications you might be able to make at the start of the exercise activity to increase your perceived enjoyment in the exercise. If you find it hard to still find enjoyment in the form of exercise, perhaps even considering a different form of exercise, after all any form of exercise is likely better than no form of exercise at all.