FitQ Points
Did It
Font Size

4 Tips for Sticking With Exercise

What can committed, active teens do when they've lost the motivation to exercise?
By Katrina Brown Hunt
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD

teen checking watchYou've decided you're going to be an active teen. You want to move more. You've found activities you enjoy. You came up with a plan. And you've had a few on-track days where you feel like an exercise success story.

Then, you crash. One day goes by without exercise. Then three days. Next thing you know, you can't remember the last time you did anything close to exercise. What's a committed-to-being-active teen like you to do?

First, stop beating yourself up. No one is perfect, and messing up is part of the change process. Think of your setback as a way to learn something about yourself and a chance to refine and improve your personal exercise plan.

When sticking with exercise gets tough, here are four powerful tips to help you.

1. Be brutally honest about yourself.

"It's important to think about how you tend to react to things," says Ronda Rose-Kayser, a certified family life educator in Sioux Falls, S.D. For example, consider how you approach homework or a school project. Do you need someone standing over you to help you get things done, or a buddy to work with? Or do you focus better if you work solo?

Use that information to help you figure out what will keep you sticking with exercise. Decide whether you would do better exercising alone, with a trainer or friend, or in a class or group.

2. Remember to start small.

"When we start exercising, we tend to do too much too soon," says George Graham, a physical education consultant and the founder PECentral.org. "But then it hurts, you're out of breath, you're sore -- and you're not going to keep doing it."

If that's what happened to you, take a step back and don't push yourself quite so hard. Remember, some activity is better than none at all. Maybe start with 10 minutes a day for a week. Then make it 15 minutes the next week. Achieving small goals frequently will keep up your motivation to exercise, especially when you feel good afterward instead of sore.

3. Give yourself goals you can be excited about.

Think about what you hope to get from exercise this week, this month, and so on. Make it specific and realistic. Picture what that would look like, and how you would feel.

Then write those goals down. Writing a goal is part of the mental process of committing to it. It helps you remember how much you want to succeed. "Don't just write down your goals once, but over and over," Rose-Kayser says. "And keep them posted somewhere that you'll see every day." Reminding yourself why you're doing this could boost your motivation to exercise on those days when you don't feel like it.