Find Your Reward

Exercise


Over time, exercise makes people feel good. Exercise itself helps your brain produce neurotransmitters that are associated with pleasure. This is what’s commonly referred to as a “runner’s high.” And as exercise becomes a habit, a person’s body simply feels better and more comfortable when it gets moving.

But, what if you just can’t get to that point where exercise is a habit? You try to work out time and time again, but you just can’t get past the huffing and puffing and sore muscles the next day? Research suggests giving yourself a little reward associated with your exercise might be just the thing you need to push past the hurdles currently preventing you from making exercise a habit.

It’s all about creating an intrinsic reward for yourself and using it every single time. What exactly is an intrinsic reward? It’s something positive that increases how often you’ll follow through on your intentions (especially when it comes to creating a new habit). Research has shown that this helps habit formation by creating an association between the behavior and the reward. Maybe it’s spending time with a friend or sitting in the gym hot tub after your yoga class.

If exercise is all pain and no gain, it will be hard to make it a habit. People who enjoy exercising are more likely to keep it up. Yes, you know that exercise is good for your health and even has brain boosting potential, but that’s not enough if you’re not getting another immediate reward.

So, what’s going to work for you? You might have to try a few things. Can you invite a friend on an evening walk? Reward yourself with a hot bath when you get home from the gym? Throw your favorite lotion in your gym bag and only use it after you shower at the gym. Ask your active friends what works for them. You’ll probably find everyone has their own little intrinsic reward.

References

  • Phillips, L. A., Chamberland, P.-É., Hekler, E. B., Abrams, J., & Eisenberg, M. H. (2016). Intrinsic rewards predict exercise via behavioral intentions for initiators but via habit strength for maintainers. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 5(4), 352–364. doi:10.1037/spy0000071