Let’s face it, it’s hard to stay motivated. Whether it’s working, cooking, or cleaning, motivation plays a huge role in our ability to persevere with, and succeed in, our day-to-day goals. But sometimes our will to work can falter, especially when it comes to exercise, and an evening on the sofa can all too easily win out over an hour at gym.
Fortunately we’re not alone in our struggles. As it turns out, in fact, some of the best thinkers in the world have turned their mighty minds to this problem. The result? A wide variety of perspectives and ideas that help to illuminate the mysteries of motivation, wellness, and commitment.
Here, then, are some of those ideas. Presented at various TED conferences, these endearing talks will help you stay motivated and inspired to stick at the gym!
Emily Balcetis: Why some people find exercise harder than others
In this informative talk, social psychologist Emily Balcetis discusses the idea that what we see (literally) can affect how we perceive diet and exercise.
Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days
For anyone who’s tried and failed to start up a new exercise regime, Matt Cutts offers a reassuring message. Simply put, just commit to try something new for 30 days. Whether it’s running, swimming, or boxing. It’s a small task in the grand scheme of things, but those 30 days might be all it takes to form a new habit and make it stick.
Carol Dweck: The power of believing you can improve
The “growth mindset” (Dweck’s area of research), is the idea that we can increase our brain’s capacity to learn and solve problems. Her talk is based around the two different attitudes we tend to take towards difficult tasks. The first is believing that we’re not smart enough to solve them, and the second is believing that we just don’t know how to solve them.
The idea is that, even in the wake of failure, our brains have the capacity to grow and overcome former obstacles. It’s a powerful message to carry with us when we exercise, especially if we engage in competitive sports.
Laura Vanderkam: How to gain control of your free time
A perceived lack of free time can play a huge part in our struggle to commit to a regular exercise routine. On top of our professional, social, and family commitments, many of us feel that we simply don’t have the time to go to the gym.
Laura Vanderkam, a time management expert, thinks we’ve got it all wrong. She believes that most of us overestimate our commitments, believing that we have far less free time than we actually do. The solution? Set ourselves non-negotiable priorities and commit to them.
Mick Cornett: How an obese town lost one million pounds
In this talk, Mick Cornett tells the story of how Oklahoma City, once one of the most obese towns in America, managed to lift itself by its bootstraps and lose a collective million pounds. And though it may be slightly higher than your personal weight loss goals, this feat of communal commitment to healthy living serves as a powerful motivator. After all, if an entire town can do it, anyone can!
Dean Ornish: You genes are not your fate
Just as the title of this talk suggests, Dean Ornish lays out an argument that our health and wellbeing isn’t necessarily dictated by our genes. On the contrary, he claims that by eating healthier, exercising more, and living better, we can actually alter ourselves right down at the genetic level.
Christopher McDougall: Are we born to run?
Running s a fitness phenomenon. Seemingly ingrained in our DNA, the urge to run is deep and old in humans. In this talk, Christopher McDougall shares stories of runners, and running cultures, from all around the world, exploring the mysterious heart of this long-enduring sport.
Dan Pink: The puzzle of motivation
According to career analyst Dan Pink, the traditional reward system, contrary to popular belief, isn’t always an entirely effective motivator. Here he examines the bare bones of motivation. And though it may seem business-oriented, there are a lot of ideas here that can be applied to health, wellbeing, and fitness.
Diana Nyad: Never, ever give up
Diana Nyad swam 100 miles from Cuba to Florida. In the dark of the night. Enduring hallucinations and jellyfish stings. For pure marvel and motivation, this talk is a gem. And it teaches us that it’s never too late to follow our dreams.
The NHS have called exercise “the miracle cure we’ve all been waiting for”. And that’s certainly no exaggeration. Exercise is a universally-celebrated tool for living a healthier and happier life. And it’s arguably the cheapest and most accessible way to maintain good mental and physical health.
But let’s face it, exercise can be hard. Not just physically, but mentally. Sometimes it’s a challenge just to put on our gear and get to the gym. But it’s important to always remember why exercise is so beneficial, and why, in the end, it’s absolutely worth persevering with.
So, with that in mind, here are 9 health benefits of regular exercise to help keep you motivated and inspired!
Regular exercise may make you happier by decreasing feelings of depression and anxiety. It affects the part of the brain that regulates stress and anxiety. And, over time, can change it in such a way that can serve to lift your general mood.
Exercise can also increase the production of endorphins, and endorphins are famous for their ability to increase positive emotions and make us feel good.
As well as this, exercise can help with self-esteem. This is because more exercise leads to better health and a better body, which, in turn, gives you more self-confidence.
Exercise feeds muscle tissues with oxygen and nutrients, and helps the cardiovascular system function properly. This means you’ll have much more strength and endurance to tackle daily tasks. And your lung capacity and heart health can also increase. So you may find yourself less out-of-breath when moving about, walking up hills, and climbing stairs!
Promotes better sleep
Poor sleep is a very difficult problem to overcome. Many people spend years of their lives unable to get a full, undisturbed night’s rest. But exercise could provide a lasting and effective remedy.
It’s thought that regular exercise can have a direct impact on how we sleep. This is partly due to the energy depletion and increased body temperature that occurs whilst exercising. And one particular study found that 2 and-a-half hours’ worth of exercise can increase sleep quality by 65%.
And for anyone who struggles to sleep as a result of anxiety, the mood-enhancing effects of exercise (as mentioned above) could provide an indirect antidote.
Lowers risk of disease
By now it’s widely known that exercise is a powerful preventative measure against many types of physical and mental illness.
– up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
– up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
– up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis.
– a 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults).
– up to a 30% lower risk of depression.
– up to a 30% lower risk of dementia.
Boosts brain power
One of the major mental benefits of exercise, especially for older individuals, is its positive effects on brain and memory function. These effects include the stimulation of chemicals that affect brain cell health, and the promotion of new blood vessel growth in the brain.
Also, researchers have found that regular aerobic exercise actually increases the size of the hippocampus (the part of the brain associated with learning and verbal memory).
As a final word on the matter, here’s an extract from an article on brain health from the Alzheimer’s Organisation:
Research has suggested that combining good nutrition with mental, social and physical activities may have a greater benefit in maintaining or improving brain health than any single activity.
It’s good for muscles and bones
Physical activity helps to stimulate muscle and bone growth. This can be incredibly beneficial in reducing muscle loss and maintaining strength into old age, as muscle mass tends to decrease the older we get.
When it comes to losing weight or preventing weight gain, regular exercise can be an amazing tool. Physical activity burns calories. So the more active we are, and the more intense the activity, the more calories we burn.
And the best news is that even the gentlest forms of exercise contribute towards our daily calorie count. So for anyone motivated by weight loss, or simply trying to maintain a weight, regular and consistent exercise should be a key component of your regime.
Of course, it’s also important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet alongside a regular exercise routine for optimal results.
Can improve your social life
Joining a sports team, a running club, or simply attending exercise classes at the gym, can all greatly improve your social life. You can meet like-minded people and make new friends, all whilst engaging in fun and health-promoting activities.
You may be wondering how more social interactions can be good for your health. But according to Age UK, participating in meaningful social activities “may help people maintain their thinking skills better in later life and slow down cognitive decline”.
These days, of course, face-to-face socialisation isn’t as straightforward as it once was. But even signing up to a Zoom yoga class, or taking part in livestream workouts, can give us a feeling of being connected to others.
Keeps hearts healthy
Johns Hopkins Medicine listed regular exercise as one of four lifestyle factors (the others being maintaining a normal weight, not smoking, and adopting a Mediterranean-style diet) that reduced the chance of death from all causes by 80% over an eight-year period during which more than 6,200 subjects were tracked.
According to Bupa, regular exercise can reduce your chance of cardiovascular disease by a third. And for reducing your risk they advise walking “whenever possible… If you already walk, try upping the pace. Weather and work permitting, go for a walk at lunchtime. Even a quick walk at a brisk pace is better than sitting by your desk.”
The way to a healthier life
The nine benefits mentioned in this article are just a handful of many. And as time goes by, more and more research findings are reinforcing the notion that regular exercise really does have a major impact on our long-term health and wellbeing.
So no matter how old you are or how much previous experience you have, exercise can change your life for the better.
It’s a new year, and that means resolutions. Those solemn vows we take in order to get fit, get healthy, and shed bad habits. But one of the problems with resolutions is our tendency to become overly self-critical as we work towards fulfilling them.
Most of us, when dieting or embarking on new fitness regimes, opt for the black-and-white approach of success vs failure. We create punishing routines, and any deviation from our proposed path of progress results in endless loops of self-criticism and disappointment.
But this approach isn’t really helpful, and it certainly isn’t optimal. According to Laurie Santos — Professor of Psychology at Yale University, and host of the Happiness Lab podcast — the best way to kick bad habits and make real progress on our goals is to simply be kind to ourselves.
By using self-compassion instead of self-loathing, we can gently encourage ourselves back on track rather than ruminating on our perceived failures.
It’s not to say that self-criticism is bad. It’s no bad thing, for example, to feel guilty when we do something that’s objectively wrong, because guilt can help us learn from our mistakes. But it’s when we internalise the criticism, and direct it towards our actual being and personality, that it becomes a problem.
Believing you’re an inherently bad person because you ate a mince pie when you were supposed to be dieting isn’t going to do you any favours. Those kind of beliefs fill us with shame and can be severely demotivating. A better approach is to be understanding and forgiving, just as you would be towards a friend or family member. We’re all human, after all, and humans aren’t perfect.
The problem with the way most of us approach our goals, and especially our new year’s resolutions, is that we measure our progress based on self-esteem, which arises out of opinions and beliefs. Butself-esteem is contingent on success. Which means that when we experience a failure or setback, our self-esteem crashes and we immediately feel bad about ourselves.
Self-compassion, on the other hand, isn’t contingent on anything. It doesn’t require success in order to function. It’s just about being kind to yourself, no matter what the result.
But that’s not the same as positive thinking. It’s not the unrelenting insistence that we’re amazing despite our shortcomings. It’s simply accepting our own humanness, and cultivating a feeling of kindness towards ourselves and our efforts.
It’s also important to remember that when we set intentions and make resolutions it’s usually because we want to improve some aspect of our lives. And the desire to improve and better ourselves should be celebrated, not berated.
So this year, try practising more self-compassion. Don’t be angry at yourself if you fall short of your goals. Or if your progress is slower than you’d hoped. Be thankful to yourself for putting in the effort, and encourage yourself to keep going — just as you would encourage anyone else.
Mustering up the courage to workout in the winter months can be a real challenge. Cold weather and dark days make winter arguably the most difficult time of year for most of us to maintain our exercise regimes.
But if we can find the motivation to keep going, even when the weather turns on us, then we can really stand to benefit from it.
So to help spur you on throughout Christmas and beyond, here are 4 benefits of exercising in winter.
Burns excess calories
Let’s not lie to ourselves, winter’s never the easiest time to watch what we eat. It’s the season of comfort food, after all. Throw Christmas and New Year’s into the mix and all of a sudden we’re dealing with hibernation-levels of snack food and takeaway consumption.
But keeping a solid exercise routine throughout the colder months can help to burn off any excess calories we might be accumulating. Plus it helps us feel less guilty on those days when we might overindulge just a little…
When exercising during winter, safety is extra important. Going out in the dark, or on snowy days, can pose greater risks of injury. So in order to keep ourselves safe and happy, sometimes the only way forward is to get a little creative and do something slightly different.
If running’s your thing, for example, but you can’t get out due to icy roads, then maybe you’ll have to turn to an online yoga class or HIIT session instead.
Even snowy days can’t stop us. Building a snowman in the garden, having a snowball fight, pulling a sled, all these activities will get the body moving in a dynamic way and provide a gentle (or not so gentle, in some cases) workout!
Helps to build willpower
We can all struggle under the relentless power of excuses, especially during winter. They’re easy to make, after all, and don’t require much justification. Maybe it’s a bit cold outside, or too dark, or maybe it’s just that bit harder to pull ourselves out of bed on an icy morning.
Whatever the reason, excuses can play a huge role in dismantling our winter workout routines. But by overcoming them, and finding the will to exercise on even the dreariest of January mornings, we can seriously strengthen our willpower in long term.
Don’t forget, choosing exercise over a warm blanket and a film is not any easy choice to make, or follow through with. But it can really help to reinforce positive habits that will stick with us for the rest of the year (and, who knows, maybe even the rest of our lives).
Keeps you happy
According to research, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern, and is usually most severe in winter – affects 1 in 3 adults in the UK.
Photo by Li Sun from Pexels. Whatever your reasons for working out – better performance in the pool, weight loss, muscle gain, or general wellbeing – it’s always crucial to work on the lower body.
After all, our largest muscle (gluteus maximus) is located in the lower body. So if we’re looking to build overall strength, be it for day-to-day tasks or competitive sports, we should be careful to never miss leg day!
So to help expand your exercise arsenal, we’re sharing 8 exercises that are excellent for building lower body strength. Enjoy!
For many people, whether it’s due to finances or time restraints, getting along to physical yoga classes isn’t always an option. And when that’s the case, there’s no better place to turn than the endless educational resource that is the internet.
In recent years yoga channels have become enormous on video sharing platforms such as YouTube, with the current most popular channel (Yoga With Adriene) boasting a huge 8.3 million-strongsubscriber base (at the time of writing).
But what the incredible popularity of the genre also means is that the variety of yoga videos to choose from is seemingly infinite. And with so much choice, it really is difficult to narrow down the selection.
Well, in a hopeful attempt to solve that problem, we went with the age-old strategy of simply settling with the most popular. So here, presented in order of most-to-least views, are the current most popular yoga workout videos on YouTube.