When it comes to long-term weight control, focusing on motivational factors that help you maintain your interest in and enjoyment of exercise may be more important than counting calories.

Here are six ways to develop a healthy addiction to a good workout:

1. Make it meaningful. Understand what exactly exercise does for your mind and body so that you know why you are working out in the first place and what you'll gain from it. If you have health issues you're attempting to remedy, focus on the types of exercises you know will help you address your specific problem.

2. Create goals. Go ahead and set long-term goals, such as better muscle definition, or losing 20, 30, or more pounds. Then put those aside while you focus on short-term goals that are attainable now—relieving physical and mental symptoms of stress, lifting two more pounds, climbing for five more minutes, or losing just a pound or two by this time next week.

3. Choose the right exercise for you. Options are endless and can work with any schedule. Experiment with different ways of fitting exercise into your day until you find the format you like best. Some people prefer group classes at a gym; some like to be alone with a set of headphones on a stair climber; others need a personal trainer to get the job done. Participating in classes online or on demand is a very flexible option. There's no excuse not to get moving.

4. Exercise earlier in the day. For most people, earlier is better because physical activity gets your metabolism going, your blood flowing, and your brain in gear and ready to meet the challenges of the day. And most of all, when you exercise in the morning, it's done! You don't have to find the time (or energy) to fit in a workout later in the day.

5. Meet the challenge. Under-challenging yourself can get boring and won't do much to improve your physical state. It's important to change it up periodically. Be on the look out for new and more intense ways to exercise in order to reach the next level of fitness and maintain your interest. Just be sure not to over do it. A workout that's too hard or an injury from over exertion can be discouraging and cause you to quit.

6. Give yourself a cause. You can be your own cause, and exercise simply for your own good health. But you may find it motivating and fun to engage exercise activities that benefit a charity. Almost every weekend there's a sponsored walk, run, or marathon to raise money for a cause.

Getting enough exercise helps you:

  • De-stress
  • Sleep better
  • Improve your mental and physical health
  • Maximize the fat-burning machinery in your body to help you lose or maintain weight

"Just be sure you get the right type of training," advises Ben Greenfield, MA, author of Shape 21-The Complete 21-Day Lean Body Manual. "What's most important is that you exercise safely."

Ben Greenfield, MA, reviewed this article.


Harvard School of Public Health. "The Benefits of Physical Activity." Web. December 2013.

Teixeira PJ, Going SB, Houtkooper LB et al. "Exercise motivation, eating, and body image variables as predictors of weight control." Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2006 January; 38(1):179-88. Web. December 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16394972