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10 Ways to Get Motivated to Exercise (When You’re Not), Part 2

Mar 7, 2020

Author: Sheri R. Colberg, PhD, FACSM

(Part 2 of 2) Last month we covered the first five ways to get motivated to exercise, and we’re back this month to give you the next five to keep your motivation going strong. Check out the following sections for more ideas for those days where you can’t seem to get moving.  

#6: Get an Exercise Buddy (or Several) 


You don’t need to go it alone when being active. Having a regular (and reliable) exercise buddy increases your likelihood of participating, and it also makes your activities more social and fun. Get your spouse, family members, friends, and co-workers to join in your physical activities, especially during your leisure time. Having a good social network to support your new or renewed exercise habit helps you adhere to it over the long run. 

Remember: Often, your community is an excellent place to look for other exercise options. To become more involved in structured exercise programs, find out what exercise programs are in your workplace or community. You can often find groups of health-conscious people walking together during lunch breaks, or you may be able to join a low-impact aerobics or other exercise class offered at your workplace or a nearby recreation center. 

Take the time to find out what’s available in your area. The more you can get involved in making your lifestyle changes as part of a broader community, the more likely you are to be successful in making them a lifelong habit. 

Tip: If you can’t find a human exercise buddy, borrow or adopt a dog that needs to be walked regularly.  

#7: Schedule It 

Put your planned exercise down on your calendar or to-do list like you would other appointments. You show up for your doctor appointments, so why should scheduling your physical activity be any different? Never make the mistake of assuming it’ll happen just because you claim that you want to do it a certain number of days per week or month. It takes some planning ahead and the commitment to make it a priority. 

#8: Set Goals and Reward Yourself 

Setting goals helps keep your interest up. For instance, if you walk for exercise, you may want to get a pedometer and set a goal of adding in 2,000 more steps each day. Break your larger goals into smaller, realistic stepping-stones (such as daily and weekly physical activity goals) for all your active lifestyle changes and use SMART goals. Trackers, activity logs, and other motivational tools are also widely available online. 

Tip: Reward yourself when you reach your exercise goals (but preferably not with food). Who says that sticker charts and non-caloric treats are just for kids? Maybe you can promise yourself an outing to somewhere special, the purchase of a coveted item, or anything else that is reasonable and effectively motivates you to exercise. 

If you miss one of your goals, try to make the rest of them happen anyway. Then reward yourself when you meet any of your goals, even if you don’t make them all happen. 

#9: Take Advantage of Opportunities for Spontaneous Physical Activity 

You don’t have to do activities at a high intensity for them to be effective for diabetes and weight management. You can also add physical movement all day long, doing anything you want to, including gardening, housework, and many other spontaneous physical activities.  

For instance, if you have a sedentary desk job, take the stairs rather than the elevator whenever you can. Walk to someone else’s office or the neighbor’s house to deliver a message instead of relying on the phone or email. Or park your car at the far end of the parking lot and walk the extra distance. Guess what? You’ve just gotten yourself more active without giving it much thought. 

#10: Take Small Steps 

If you get out of your regular activity routine, and are having trouble getting restarted, take small steps in that direction. You may need to start back at a lower intensity by using lighter weights, less resistance, or slower walking speed. Starting slowly with small steps helps you avoid burnout, muscle soreness, and injury. 

For example, if you don’t want to exercise on a given day, make a deal with yourself that you’ll do it for a short time to get started (which is often the hardest part). Even doing only 5 to 10 minutes at a time (rather than 30 or more) is fine. After you’re up and moving, you may feel good enough to exceed the time you planned on doing in the first place. The key is to begin through any means possible. 

Remember: You’re in this for the long term, so even taking just small steps in the right direction will eventually allow you to reach your fitness goals and reclaim your good health. 

By way of reminder, the first five tips from last month follow: 

#1: Check Your Blood Glucose 

#2: Start with Easier Activities 

#3: Pick Activities You Enjoy 

#4: Spice It Up 

#5: Have a Plan B 

(Click here to see the full part 1 of 10 Ways to Get Motivated to Exercise (When You’re Not)


From Colberg, Sheri R., Chapter 22, “Ten Ways to Get Motivated to Exercise (When You’re Not)” in Diabetes & Keeping Fit for DummiesWiley, 2018 


Sheri R. Colberg, Ph.D., is the author of The Athlete’s Guide to Diabetes: Expert Advice for 165 Sports and Activities (the newest edition of the Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook). She is also the author of Diabetes & Keeping Fit for Dummies, co-published by Wiley and the ADA. A professor emerita of exercise science from Old Dominion University and an internationally recognized diabetes motion expert, she is the author of 12 books, 30 book chapters, and over 420 articles. She was honored with the 2016 American Diabetes Association Outstanding Educator in Diabetes Award. Contact her via her websites (SheriColberg.com and DiabetesMotion.com).