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How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness


15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

To change your behavior – including adding exercise to your routine – set goals based on motives that align with your sense of self.

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Most people start an exercise program to lose weight, gain energy and enjoy better health. And most people quit not long after they start. A better approach is to find your motivation and set goals for your health and for daily, fun movement that align with your sense of self. Behavioral scientist, researcher and coach Michelle Segar explains how to set up an exercise and wellness regime based on her “MAPS program” of “meaning, awareness, permission and strategy.” An expert on sustaining long-term motivation, she urges you to take on an informal, fun activity, such as walking or dancing, that you enjoy. getAbstract recommends her manual – the 2015 USA Best Book Awards’ top diet-exercise book – to anyone who wants to get and stay healthy.



Emotion trumps logic. This is true for all areas of self-improvement. The goals of getting more exercise, losing weight and improving their health may briefly rev people up, but they fail to motivate anyone over an extended period. Motivating people to start diets or exercise programs is easy; getting them to continue is tough. Instead, take on enjoyable, fun activities that physically energize you and that will motivate with a positive feeling you can sustain over the long run. Building good health is a strategic pursuit with a long-term reward, yet that alone seldom excites people long enough for them to achieve that pay-off. Having fun, on the other hand, is a good motivator once you find an activity you like and give yourself permission to enjoy it.

The “Successful Cycle of Motivation”

The fact that someone might have a heart attack in two or three decades does little to inspire that person to get up early to go for a long run. Having fun provides motivation that can last a lifetime.

A successful cycle of motivation depends on choosing a physical activity for the “Right Whys.” Having a good time provides “immediate positive feedback.” People...

About the Author

Motivation scientist Michelle Segar, PhD, directs the Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy (SHARP) Center at the University of Michigan and chairs the US National Physical Activity Plan’s Communications Committee.

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    M. M. 5 months ago
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    J. M. 7 months ago
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    W. H. 4 years ago
    It’s a pretty good message. I think most people struggle with the awareness part and they don’t know what they enjoy. And, enjoyment of one activity could fade which means you need another, and another...

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