Feeling Unmotivated? Here are 5 Science-Based Ways to Restore Motivation
It’s no surprise that regular physical activity is associated with significant health benefits, including a healthy body composition and the prevention of a number of chronic diseases (type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity). However, even though the numerous benefits of regular exercise are well-established, much of the world’s population is insufficiently active (23% of men and 32% of women) . Why? Life is full of unforeseen challenges, and these often impede our motivation to either start exercising or stay consistent with regular physical activity.
It’s no surprise that a lack of motivation is a common struggle for much of the world over this past year, but our team at F45 Training is here to help you get back in gear with these 5 science-backed ways to boost motivation! With the first week of C30 underway, here’s a great question to reflect upon: ‘What is motivating me to make this my best F45 Challenge yet, and why?’ At the end of this blog, reflect back on this same question and see if your answer has changed.
What causes a lack of motivation?
A lack of motivation to exercise can be broken down into these two factors: low interest and/or low perceived competence. To become motivated, we must be able to value the beneficial outcomes that are associated with exercise enough to make it a priority in our lives . Secondly, we must be able to feel competent enough in our physical ability to participate, which often is an internal battle for many of us (i.e. not feeling physically fit or skilled enough).
Adhering to long-term exercise can be extremely overwhelming, however, it is possible to reframe this perception to be much more feasible. In order to do so, it’s important to break down two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is driven by internal factors to meet personal goals that we enjoy working on. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is driven by external factors, often controlled by others.
Research has demonstrated that short-lived persistence with exercise is related to externally-driven motivation (extrinsic motivation). A good example is exercising based on a feeling of ‘having to’ rather than ‘wanting to,’  and is typically associated with physique goals or tangible reward (e.g. financial incentive). While these external factors may provide temporary motivation and short-term increases in exercise, the longevity and maintenance of this new behavior is often not sustainable over time .
Why? In order to create a positive lifestyle behavior change, we cannot rely on external factors to motivate us, as they are out of our control. Instead, we need to focus on what we can individually control, and set intentions to make positive changes for ourselves without external motivators. Developing a sense of intrinsic motivation is essential for sustaining habitual exercise across a lifespan and is rooted in feelings of enjoyment, personal accomplishment, and internal satisfaction.
5 Building Blocks to Boost Your Motivation to Exercise
Internal (intrinsic) motivation to engage and stick to regular exercise is based upon these 5 building blocks, as outlined by Mears and Kilpatrick .
- Create rationale and purpose. Ask questions to gain clarity around what exactly it is that you will be working through during a training session. This educational component or sense of learning to gain clarity creates a sense of perceived control, which drives confidence, empowerment, and autonomy.
- Set moderately difficult goals. Goals that are too difficult reduce confidence, and goals that are too easy may diminish motivation over time. Setting out clear goals and developing action steps to achieve them promotes self-efficacy. Related article: https://app.f45challenge.com/learn/what-keeps-you-motivated-how-to-create-a-healthy-daily-routine
- Allow yourself the ability to modify. Scaling exercises to optimize technique and/or intensity is a crucial part of functional, smart training. Not only does this put us in a position of control to boost autonomy, but it also keeps us mentally engaged and intrinsically focused to master technique before progression.
- Social support. Fostering positive social relationships from those who are supportive and encouraging of our intrinsic goals not only helps to keep us accountable, but creates a sense of comradery to drive confidence and mental willpower to persevere.
- Positive affirmation. Reflecting on positive achievements both daily and weekly enhances our sense of self-accomplishment to create a more positive frame of mind leading into the next session. Whether it’s physical performance-related or mastering an exercise technique, affirmation is key for building self-confidence and internal motivation.
As we gear up for the next week of C30, reflect upon how you can apply these 5 strategies to develop intrinsic motivation into your daily life and during the Challenge. The team at F45 will ensure you feel supported, inspired, and ready to take on each Challenge training session with the internal confidence and motivation to make progress towards your long-term goals. 22
- World Health Organisation. (2020). Physical activity fact sheet.
- Ryan, R. M., & Patrick, H. (2009). Self-determination theory and physical. Hellenic journal of psychology, 6, 107-124.
- Korkiakangas, E. E., Alahuhta, M. A., & Laitinen, J. H. (2009). Barriers to regular exercise among adults at high risk or diagnosed with type 2 diabetes: a systematic review. Health promotion international, 24(4), 416-427.
- Dishman, R. K., & Buckworth, J. (1996). Increasing physical activity: a quantitative synthesis. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 28(6), 706-719.
- Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.
- Mears, J., & Kilpatrick, M. (2008). Motivation for exercise: Applying theory to make a difference in adoption and adherence. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, 12(1), 20-26.