6 ways to change your mind about exercise

May 3, 2013

Mark L. Friedman, MD, FACEP, FACP

Negative, self-defeating thoughts are the root cause of a sedentary lifestyle. You can rewire your brain with more positive, effective thoughts and transform your lifestyle. Here are six examples:

Self-defeating thought #1: I have to exercise to lose weight.

Punishing yourself for eating leads to yo-yo exercising"”yet exercise is proven to help you feel better and live a longer, healthier life, even if you don't lose an ounce. Instead of exercising to earn the right to eat or pay penance for eating certain foods, build a lifelong love of exercise and all it does for you.

Transformative thought: I exercise for fitness and health.


Self-defeating thought #2: I know I should exercise but I hate it so I just can't make myself do it.

Notice the negative words "should," "hate," "can't," and "make myself." These stem from past experiences like being chosen last for teams, boring exercise routines, and discomfort from doing too much too fast. This time, find enjoyable physical activities that suit your personality and lifestyle. Start slowly and allow your body to adjust gradually. Choose to focus on all the great things exercise does for you and how wonderful you feel.

Transformative thought: I enjoy becoming more physically active each day.


Self-defeating thought #3: I don't have time.

It only takes 1/48th of your whole day to exercise for 30 minutes"”and most people waste more than that on less productive activities like watching TV. If you're too busy to exercise, you're too busy. Since physical activity is so beneficial, give it the priority it deserves.

Transformative thought: I make time for my health and well-being.


Self-defeating thought #4: I don't have the energy.

This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Exercise improves your strength, stamina, and sleep so you're more productive and energetic. Since you're likely to feel better within a few minutes of starting to move, commit to exercising for at least 10 minutes. Most of the time, you'll feel so good that you'll want to continue.

Transformative thought: I feel myself becoming healthier and more energetic.


Self-defeating thought #5: I'm embarrassed to be seen exercising.

Most people are so focused on themselves they don't notice you anyway. Those who do will likely admire you. Eventually you'll feel less self-conscious, but in the meantime, find activities and places that feel comfortable so you can focus on all the benefits.

Transformative thought: I exercise for me.


Self-defeating thought #6: Exercise is really hard for me.

Physical activity doesn't have to be hard or hurt to be beneficial, so lower the bar. Ask yourself, "What is the least amount of exercise I can do"”joyfully and consistently?" If you start there, little by little, you'll feel stronger, leaner, more energetic, and healthier.

Transformative thought: I am an active, healthy person.


Repeat these positive thoughts frequently and watch the transformation begin!

The Exercise Personality Quiz is an excerpt from Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle by Michelle May, M.D. (download chapter one free). Michelle May, M.D. is also the founder of the Am I Hungry? ® Mindful Eating Workshops and Facilitator Training Program that helps individuals learn to break free from mindless and emotional eating.

Originally published May 3, 2013 10:00:01 AM.