How to get serious about exercise

This article is based on a Quora answer I wrote for someone who wanted to commit to regular exercise. His health will thank him.

There are lots of ways to make sure you exercise. I’ll list plenty of them, but you may only need a few. Choose what suits you and apply it several times per week. But first, decide. Exercising is a decision. A decision is something to commit to, and then follow through.

Put your body in a place where exercise is inevitable. Wear exercise clothing.

You might even adapt your wardrobe a little so that you can exercise any time, or you could carry exercise gear in your car, or leave some at work.

If you struggle to go to an exercise place, tell yourself:

I’ll go there and I only need to do 5 minutes. You’ll invariably find that you do more than 5 minutes once you get started.

The hardest part is getting there. Here are some other tips to get to the exercise place (it doesn’t have to be a gym):

  • Plan your exercise to fit in well with your job, family, lifestyle. Be realistic, but carve out some time as this is important. We are talking about your health.
  • Make it ‘just what you do’ either before or after work. Don’t think about it. Once you have been a few times, you’ll go there almost on autopilot.
  • Schedule exercise like an appointment. You owe it to yourself to keep that appointment.
  • Here is a worksheet to make sure you turn some of these tips into actions. You can download a full page printable PDF here if you prefer.

  • Find something you like to do. It doesn’t have to be torture:
    • walking in nature
    • swimming
    • dancing
    • Pokemon, geocaching, walking around window shopping
    • bowling, snowboarding, bike riding — whatever you like to do
  • You might like to sign up for a fun run, hiking expedition or other event. Having a date and a standard which you will need to train for might be very motivational for you.
  • If you’re the sort of person who likes to run by the clock or routine, set a time when you must go and exercise.
  • Arrange to meet a friend to exercise. You can’t let them down.
  • Similarly, enlist the help of an accountability buddy, or find an online accountability partner.
  • Set reminders in your phone. They are more than reminders, they are firm non-negotiable instructions to exercise.
  • Try a wearable exercise monitor if you think that will motivate you.
  • Always have a spare set of exercise clothes handy. We aren’t interested in excuses. Carry about 5 pairs of socks (or whatever else you always seem to forget) in your car.
  • Can you rethink your daily transport — getting off one stop earlier, walking from the non-crowded end of the carpark, walking to the bus or train, taking the stairs.
  • Can you walk at lunchtime, and try to have walking meetings with people or to catch up with friends?
  • Try yoga in front of entertainment, rather than sitting on the couch.
  • Do something enjoyable while you exercise to alleviate boredom:
    • watching a movie
    • listening to music, talks or books
    • talking to a friend
  • Join an exercise group or a team to play sport. Again you can’t let them down.
  • Hire a personal trainer if you think it is a wise use of your money.
  • Use an app to track progress or to train you.
  • If you are unfit, start small. You don’t want sore muscles as an excuse not to exercise.
  • No excuses. None.
  • Have a wet/bad weather alternative. If the weather stops you exercising, you will lose momentum.
  • Have a summer and winter plan for what exercise you are going to do.
  • Have a traveling plan — take your shoes and an exercise band. Those things are a gym in one piece of elastic.
  • Keep a graph on the wall of the number of times you exercise and try not to break patterns.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. This is about you.
  • If you don’t meet your goals, DON’T GIVE UP. Even 5 minutes of exercise if 5 minutes more than nothing. Every additional 5 minutes is even better. You can always exercise after some missed days.
  • If you see no improvements, know that there are improvements going on inside your body and with your health.
  • Never feel a failure. You are already winning just by asking this question.
  • Reward yourself occasionally (after you exercise) with something within your budget and good for you — maybe some new exercise gear or an exercise band etc
  • You can break it up into several short sessions in a day. Exercise is just as beneficial done this way as if it is done in one session.
  • Get up from sedentary activities approximately every hour as you can’t undo a day of sitting with one exercise session.

A few of those tips that suit your lifestyle should be all that you need, as long as you stick with them and act on them consistently.

Good luck, you’ll be a little fitter each day.

There’s more to read on the topic here. And you can download a printable PDF worksheet here.