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For many people who start their exercise journey, they have one thing on their minds: weight loss. Not that this is a bad thing per se, but sometimes having our focus only on the number on the scale can cause our motivation to drop if that figure stays stagnant for too long (which most of us know from experience is very likely to happen). Evidence actually shows that focusing too much on weight loss can be quite tasking on our mental health. It is ideal to have a goal that is fitness related and work towards it through diet and exercise.

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On the topic of motivation, there are two types: internal/intrinsic and external/extrinsic motivation. There are two kinds – intrinsic and extrinsic motivation:

Internal motivation relates to being motivated to do a task because you enjoy doing it. You gain personal satisfaction from seeing the task completed. To put it simply, you do the task not because of an expectation of external reward but for the feeling or knowledge having completed the task.

External motivation is when your motivation comes from an external reward to do a task. Maybe you get up early every day to train for a marathon so you can “beat the boys” and have the bragging rights. Though you might get some joy and satisfaction in the event that that happens, that joy is totally dependent on beating your friends and not the personal satisfaction of getting through the marathon.

Both forms of motivation are very powerful. As powerful as being internally driven can be, in today’s competitor driven world, we cannot avoid the influence of external factors and persons on the decisions we make daily. In fact, external motivation is the reason why group exercise classes have been shown to be effective. A balanced life would consist of doing both things that you love to do and things that would require knowledge of some sort of reward before you do them. However, if we manage to move from an external focus as our reason for exercising to a more internally derived one, we are likely to enjoy exercise more; leading to better benefits.


One thing that must be stated is that the weight loss journey is never a straight line. Most people would find that they would lose weight very easily when they initially start to exercise and improve their diet. However, most of this weight loss is due to water loss not fat loss. This is as a result of glycogen burning in response to sudden reduction in calorie intake or increase in calorie loss. If you are consistent, you will start to burn fat and then hit the dreaded plateau.

A weight loss plateau is due to your body catching up with your new metabolic status. This is the period where frustrations set in and would require you to look beyond the scale and begin to set personal challenges to conquer. Celebrate yourself rather than beating yourself down. The aim is to develop a positive attitude towards exercise. If you see your ability to exercise as a chance to build your confidence rather than to doubt yourself, or as a chore, you are likelier to stick to it.

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Admittedly, a switch from switch from being body focused being fitness focused is not an easy one. But if it’s going to happen then you obviously need other reasons other than the four digit number on your scale to keep you going. Here are a few reasons to focus on to help you with that mindset shift.


Physical activity can help reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. We also know that it can help reduce symptoms in those living with anxiety disorders. When you increase your heart rate body releases endorphins. It’s these hormones that make you feel like you just won a tournament after your exercise sessions.

Our Recommendation: Shift your focus from how you look and instead to how you feel after exercise.


Research shows that when we exercise regularly, these hormones linger for longer periods in our blood and leave a longer lasting good mood. these Exercise also helps to improve your mood and is incredibly important for your mental health.

Our Recommendations: Increase your exercise frequency to at least 3-4 times per week.


Among its many benefits, exercise is important for good sleep. According to research, when you choose to work out might have an impact on your sleep.

Early morning workouts have been shown to cause deeper sleep cycles and allow us to spend 75 percent more time in the most reparative stages of sleep than people who exercise later in the day. Meaning a better and more healing. If an early morning run is not for you, afternoon aerobic exercises such as Zumba have been shown to reduce insomnia causing you to fall asleep faster. Late night exercises are not the best if you want to get some quick shut eyes. The increase in temperature and metabolism might with getting a restful night.

Our Recommendation: The best times to exercise if you are struggling with sleep are early mornings or afternoons. If you prefer to exercise at night, a stretch or yoga session would be the way to go as that would help relax and unwind you.

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Medium to high intensity aerobic and strength training have been shown to significantly reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases such as type two diabetes and heart disease.

Our Recommendation: If you are looking to start exercising or currently are, aim at building your exercise intensity to medium or high intensity on at least two days in the week. Try to also include some regular arm and leg training.


At the end of the day, everyone is different, and some might still prefer the kick that knowing how much better a shirt or skirt would fit as motivation to exercise. It is also important to consider that a mindset change will not happen instantly. You might need to train your mind to gradually value the importance of internal motivation. The aim of this blog is to recommend ideas on how to achieve that. Let’s GET MOVING and GET GOING.

Written By Kojo Arthur, Physiotherapist