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You’re probably familiar with all the amazing benefits of regular, consistent exercise. It lowers blood pressure, reduces your risk of disease, improves mental health and helps you live a longer, happier life.
Why, then, is it so hard to actually get up and get moving?
More than 80 percent of Americans don’t exercise as much as they should, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Among those ages 65 to 74, two-thirds are not physically active. And we’ve all heard the statistics about the overwhelming number of people who don’t follow through on their exercise goals.
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“As humans, it’s hard for us to make a decision to do something because it’s good for us over the long term,” says Art Markman, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Smart Change.
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Fortunately, behavioral scientists have been busy trying to determine what actually works to boost exercise motivation. The next time you’re tempted to make excuses and skip your workout, try one of these science-based strategies to get moving.
Stop making exercise about how you look
Of course you’d like to lose 10 pounds or firm up those arms. But people who have a process goal, such as a target number of exercise sessions a week, are significantly more likely to stick to their workouts than those who focus on a big-picture outcome, like losing weight, a U.K. study found. “Instead of, ‘I want to lose 10 pounds,’ a better goal is, ‘I’m going to exercise on Mondays and Thursdays at 11 a.m.,’ ” Markman says.