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Want to get fit? Know thyself.

Toni-Ann DiSantis

Want to get fit? Know thyself. (via Cleveland Clinic Wellness)

Magazine covers and TV ads featuring toned, glistening bodies are meant to catch your eye. But they likely won’t help you stick with an exercise routine. The same goes for the 6 a.m. spinning class your sister swears you’ll love even though you’re a night owl, or telling yourself you’re going to hit the pool even though you really hate swimming. New research highlights the importance of “intrinsic motivation”—motivation that comes from within and doesn’t involve an external reward—in finding an exercise routine that works for you. In investigating what motivates people to choose different types of exercise, they found that people who were motivated by internal forces like enjoyment, challenge, and stress management tended to exercise more frequently than those who were motivated by external forces, such as the examples above and anything else that comes from outside yourself. If you think you “should” be a runner because everyone else in your family runs (external motivation) but it’s dancing you love (intrinsic motivation), guess which one you’re more likely to stick with? Being realistic about your lifestyle and personality can help you align with intrinsic motivation, too. If you’re an early bird, a Zumba class at 7 a.m. may be better for you than a lunchtime class. And if you’re more of an introvert, you might feel nourished by solo walks or swimming but drained by a group exercise class or playing on a team—and vice versa. Feeling competent at something builds intrinsic motivation too, but keep in mind that it takes time to build competence. If you’re trying a new physical activity, be patient and gentle with yourself. If you enjoy it, stick with it and your intrinsic motivation will grow. If you do not enjoy it, keep trying new ones until you find one you love.