Instant Gratification: The Hidden Joys of a Consistent Workout

Instant Gratification: The Hidden Joys of a Consistent Workout
Photo by Gonzalo Facello on Unsplash

In this world of high-tech wonders, remote work, and endless streaming, we’re at a point where, sadly, getting active has become more of a choice than a need for many of us. Moving our bodies should be as natural and non-negotiable as eating our daily meals. But, it seems like we’re kind of losing touch with this vital part of our well-being.

A study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine paints a not-so-surprising but pretty disappointing picture: a bunch of folks aren’t hitting the recommended physical activity marks (source: BJSM). And this isn’t just a minor slip. It’s a major player in the rise of diseases we could totally prevent, and shockingly, a lot of people only realize the importance of getting a move on after being hit with a chronic illness diagnosis.

Of course, there have been loads of campaigns talking up the health perks of staying active. The surge in sports club sign-ups and the boom in sports events show that awareness is on the rise. Unfortunately, these initiatives are just scratch the surface.

Awareness Doesn’t Automatically Spark Motivation

You might wonder, “If folks are aware of all the good stuff exercise does, then why isn’t everyone hitting the gym?” The catch is, all the cool perks of exercising, like a healthier heart and lower risk of chronic diseases, don’t show up right away. Because you don’t see these benefits instantly, it’s pretty easy to brush them off. We humans are all about that instant reward life and tend to value immediate pleasures more than the rewards we have to wait for.

In simpler terms, the immediate ‘pain’ of pushing through a workout often feels way heavier than the vague future gain.

Why Most People Ditch Their Exercise Routines

Ever thought about what really keeps us from not just jumping into a workout routine but actually sticking with it? Some fresh research has thrown in a few eye-openers. The biggest hurdle? The classic ‘just don’t have the time’. ‘Lost to follow up’ came in as the second most common reason. And, interestingly, stuff like making an old injury worse or dealing with other health dramas were not the main culprits we thought they’d be, covering only 12% and 10% respectively. But, here’s the cool part of the study: if you can get over the initial two or three months, the odds are pretty good you’ll stick with it for the next six to eight months1.

Hunting for Instant Joy

Think about those marathon runners. Most of them don’t hit the pavement worrying about their cholesterol two decades from now. They run for the thrill on race day, the bonds formed with other runners, and that awesome feeling of achievement they get right after.

So, taking a page from their book, we gotta rethink how we approach working out. Instead of just seeing it as a ticket to long-term health, we should dive into it for the instant joy, the immediate satisfaction, and all the feel-good vibes.

As James Clear puts it in his book, “The Atomic Habit,” “A hint of a reward creates a craving,” and it’s this expectation of getting a reward that gets us moving and turns, in this case, exercising, into a habit we can’t resist.

Conclusion

When exercise is tied to positive emotional experiences, rather than just to health benefits, it becomes a game-changer2. Basically, if working out makes people feel awesome in the moment, they’re way more likely to make it a habit.

This means those first few months of getting into the groove are super important. Get past the initial hurdles, and you’re probably on your way to a livelier, healthier life!

So, to wrap things up, while it’s super important to know about the long-lasting health perks of exercise, we really need to sync up with the immediate joys it brings. Let’s turn moving our bodies into a daily treat, a bit like enjoying our favorite dish. Keep it fun, keep it light, and here’s to a healthier, happier us!

References

  1. Collins, K. A., Huffman, K. M., Wolever, R. Q., Smith, P. J., Siegler, I. C., Ross, L. M., Hauser, E. R., Jiang, R., Jakicic, J. M., Costa, P. T., & Kraus, W. E. (2022). Determinants of Dropout from and Variation in Adherence to an Exercise Intervention: The STRRIDE Randomized Trials. Translational journal of the American College of Sports Medicine7(1), e000190. https://doi.org/10.1249/tjx.0000000000000190 ↩︎
  2. Maltagliati, S., Sarrazin, P., Fessler, L., Lebreton, M., & Cheval, B. (2022). Why people should run after positive affective experiences instead of health benefits. Journal of sport and health science, S2095-2546(22)00105-3. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2022.10.005 ↩︎

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