Three Ways to Keep Motivated to Exercise

Written by Veronica Barat, MS, CEP, CISSN

Maintaining an active lifestyle through exercise has numerous health benefits, such as slowing age-related changes that impair exercise capacity, promoting healthy body composition, managing chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, increasing longevity, and promoting psychological and cognitive well-being.

To reap the benefits of exercise, we must engage with it consistently. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults over the age of 65 engage in moderate-intensity exercise at least five days a week, preferably daily, accounting for 30 to 60 minutes/day of aerobic exercise. 

Additionally, resistance training is recommended at least two nonconsecutive days/week, and flexibility training is recommended at least two days/week, but ideally daily. As this is a general recommendation for older adults, verify with your provider that these criteria make sense for you and your health.

For many people, the difficulty comes from finding the drive to participate in physical activity. I have compiled three things to consider when developing an exercise program so that it is successful for you and your lifestyle.

1. Set SMART goals to make your exercise routine.

SMART is a common acronym we use to set goals within our capabilities for motivation. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. By setting goals, we can keep motivated to achieve that next milestone in our road to a healthy and active lifestyle. 

An example of an effective SMART goal would be: "I will go for a 35-minute walk Monday through Friday at the local track every week for the next three months, so I am no longer classified as 'sedentary' and can improve my cardiovascular health". That goal was specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely, making it an effective SMART goal. 

On the other hand, an "I will exercise more" goal is not a SMART goal since it does not meet our criteria of being specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, or timely.
SMART goals are those that can seamlessly fit into your current lifestyle—hence the acronym's attainable and reasonable elements. Setting goals that are against the flow of your daily life puts those SMART goals in a more difficult position to succeed.

If you have any questions about SMART goals, please contact your exercise physiologist or specialist to help formulate an individualized plan.

2. Participate in things you enjoy.

To benefit from exercise, it is important to remain consistent for a long period of time. Consistency cannot be obtained unless we are ready, motivated and able to do what we are planning. When you know what is within your limits, participate in something that makes you excited to get outside and start moving. For some, like Dr. Lubarsky, it is biking. For others, it is pickleball, running, swimming, Zumba classes, walking, and more. Participating in what makes you happy feels less like a task to exercise but rather a fun pastime where you enjoy the act of doing it. Make sure exercises are within your predetermined limits and ask your provider or cardiologist what you can do to stay safely moving and healthy. 

3. Get a group going or join an established exercise group.

Be it a local walking club, a class at your local fitness center, or finding a personal trainer or friend to exercise with, having increased moral support has been shown to keep people motivated when it comes to exercise. Having a friend or a support group makes individuals feel more excited to get out and exercise since it also becomes a social gathering. By involving yourself in established groups, you can form a network of friends with common interests, further motivating physical activity continuity. If there are no local groups for what you enjoy, ask your friends, spouse, children, family members, or colleagues to join in on the fun with you.
Making exercise reasonable, fun, goal-oriented, and a group affair can help to keep you motivated and consistent on the path to a healthier mind, body, and heart.


To schedule an appointment with North Suffolk Cardiology, call (631) 941-2000.