Exercise: do you do it for vanity or sanity?

Exercise: do you do it for vanity or sanity?

If whatever you’re using to motivate yourself to exercise is genuinely helping you to stay active, great! Keep at it. But the question of whether you’re exercising for your ‘vanity’ or your ‘sanity’ might be a valid one to ask yourself, after research revealed that your answer can affect how much activity you end up doing.

The results of a US study found that while 44 per cent of women are motivated to exercise by a ‘visual’ or body shape goal, they end up doing 40 per cent less exercise than women who are motivated to move by a non-body shape perk, such as better sleep, as a result.

One explanation may be the fact that as far as goals go, striving to look a certain way or achieve a particular body shape isn’t 100 per cent within your control – and if you fall short of the mark you’ve set yourself, that can be really demotivating. You can read more about setting goals, and why some work better than others for staying motivated, here.

Personally, I’m driven to do something physically active every single day because I know how much of a positive impact it has on my overall health and wellbeing – in other words, I definitely move more for my sanity, rather than my vanity!

It’s no secret that exercise can improve your mood, and I find that the endorphin rush being active delivers always helps me unwind, stay focused and is a great stress-management technique, too. Plus, it often serves as my daily dose of ‘me time’, which is something I know I really benefit from.

Interestingly, while the mood-enhancing benefits are definitely not the only health perks that exercise delivers, there’s another reason why putting the spotlight on them is a good idea. Different research shows that as far as staying motivated goes, initially focusing on the immediate benefits of exercise – like the fact that you feel more energised or less stressed after a workout – is more effective than focusing on a longer-term health benefit, like the fact that regular exercise protects against heart disease, to keep your momentum to move, high.

And at the end of the day, it’s being active regularly and consistently that will deliver those long-term health benefits, so it’s really important to do what you can to stay motivated, on a day-to-day basis.

Why not give it a try yourself, by making the effort to focus on any mood or mental health-related benefits you notice in the moment, the next time you’ve finished doing something active. Perhaps you feel calmer? Or proud of yourself for what you’ve just achieved? Focusing on those things might be all the motivation you need to get back out there, tomorrow and the next day, and the next….


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Martha Lourey-Bird | Sports & Exercise Scientist will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.