Despite knowing the numerous benefits of exercising, it’s just too hard to get up and get moving on some days. Not for everyone though. Some people seem to have a lot of energy all day around. Why does that happen? Why are some people motivated to work out while others need that extra push?
It may take around eight weeks for a beginner to become a regular exerciser according to behavioral research. However, studies show that 50% of people starting an exercise program will drop out within the first six months.
Exercise initiation depends on three factors:
- Social support
- Positive feedback
After initiation, other factors motivate the person to continue exercising:
- Biological characters (the sex of an individual, being overweight)
- Social factors (the level of fitness and physical activity of people around you)
- Psychological factors (self-efficacy, self-confidence)
- Behavioral attributes (diet, alcohol consumption, smoking habits)
- Physical environment (exercise facilities, equipment)
- Genetic factors
Types of Exercise Motivation
There are two types of motivation, namely, extrinsic and intrinsic.
Some examples of extrinsic motivation or external motivators are:
- Getting flat abs
- Wanting to fit into old clothes
- Improving appearance
Intrinsic motivation is something that comes from within. Some internal motivators are:
- Runner’s high
- Stress relief
- ‘Feel good’ factor
How Do Genes Influence Exercise Motivation?
BDNF Gene and Exercise Motivation
The Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) gene encodes the protein by the same name. This protein is found in the brain and spinal cord. It is especially found in the regions of the brain that control eating, drinking, and body weight. Hence, the protein influences all of these functions.
rs6265 in BDNF Gene and Exercise Motivation
rs6252 is an SNP in the BDNF gene, which has been associated with exercise motivation. The G allele of this SNP has been associated with a lower motivation to exercise. It is also linked to a higher risk for weight gain.
Other genes like C18orf2, DNAPTP6, and PAPSS2 also influence exercise motivation.
Non-genetic Factors Which Affect Exercise Motivation
Sex: Men are more likely to engage in workouts based on competitiveness, while women are more interested in workouts that alleviate stress and improve physical appearance.
Psychological: Low levels of self-esteem affects women’s exercise participation and adherence, as they tend to gain less satisfaction from exercise engagement.
Sedentary lifestyle: A lifestyle that involves a lot of sitting makes it all the more difficult to get up and get the body moving.
Exercise injuries: Working out with the wrong form or improper technique can lead to injuries. This may discourage people from working out again.
Recommendations to stay motivated
Set up achievable goals: It is important to set realistic goals that are best suited for you. If you are new to exercising, you may want to lighten your goals. For beginners, it is advisable to start with 20-30 minutes 2-3 times a week.
Remember to reward yourself: Sometimes, vague goals like weight loss or better health may not feel rewarding enough as they may take a while to achieve. By treating yourself to a delicious treat after a good workout, you create a kind of reward loop in your brain. In fact, you can trick your brain into growing fond of this link between exercise and reward. This may increase your willingness to commit to the workout.
Find a routine you like: It is important to workout because you ‘want to’ and not because you ‘have to.’ If you don’t love any exercise in particular, walking may be a good start.
Get some reliable support: A good workout buddy can go a long way. Even on the days you don’t really feel like it, having a support system in place can help you kick the lull.
Don’t be too hard on yourself: It is completely normal to miss out on a day or two of workouts. In fact, such ‘rest days’ are recommended for the sore muscles to heal.
- While a lot of people enthusiastically initiate exercising with a future goal in mind, only 50% stay on the routine after six months. Many biological, social, and behavioral factors influence the motivation to exercise.
- Certain genes have been implicated in exercise motivation. BDNF is one such gene that encodes a protein found in the appetite and weight control regions of the brain. rs6525 is an SNP in the BDNF gene. The G allele of this SNP has been associated with a lower motivation to exercise.
- Other factors like lifestyle and psychology also come in to play in exercise motivation. For example, a sedentary lifestyle and low self-esteem are associated with a lower motivation to exercise.
- Setting realistic fitness goals and rewarding yourself after a good workout are effective ways to keep yourself motivated. It is also recommended to find a workout buddy who can act as a support system.