Set Objective and Subjective Goals
Objective goals focus on quantitative outcomes—tangible aspects of exercise or fitness that we can measure and see. Subjective goals focus on qualitative outcomes—feelings or perceptions we want to experience in regard to exercise. Subjective goals are important because they help uncover the root “why” of our objective goals.
Research by Dr. Michelle Segar and colleagues suggests we are more consistently motivated by our subjective goals (our feelings and perceptions) than our objective goals (the desired outcome).
Focus Inward: Intrinsic Motivation
One of the most prevalent theories of exercise motivation is Deci and Ryan’s Self-Determination Theory (SDT). One of the premises of SDT is that individuals are more likely to engage in a behavior, and more likely to persist in the behavior, if they’re motivated from within. This is called intrinsic motivation, as compared to extrinsic motivation. A recent study published in The Physical Educator demonstrated that college-aged adults who reported higher levels of intrinsic motivation were more likely to report higher levels of physical activity.
Identify Enjoyable Exercise Activities
Many people have the misconception that they need to suffer during an exercise session in order for it to be effective. Although certain types of exercise can certainly push us out of our comfort zone, we don’t need to struggle through every workout. In fact, we’re less likely to stick with an exercise routine if we dread starting each workout. No surprise there.
Dr. Segar and her colleagues have found across multiple populations (older adults, women, and individuals with chronic conditions) that exercise perceived as enjoyable is much more likely to lead to persistent exercise behavior and deliver health and fitness results!