No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness

No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness

by Michelle Segar

No Sweat is a simple, practical, and motivating guide on how you can achieve lasting fitness by changing your mental perception of exercise. This book will teach you the four-point program that will broaden your definition of exercise and help you find pleasure in physical activity. It will also show you realistic ways to fit exercise into your daily life.

Summary Notes

It’s Not About the Sweat

“Reaping the benefits of physical activity is not just about the sweat: An almost infinite variety of physical movement choices and intensities will work just as well, or better, than a strict regimen of intense workouts.”

Most people who want to lose weight tend to focus on a strict diet and intense exercise. This is driven by a perfectionist society obsessed with a specific body image. The airwaves are filled with messages warning people about the dangers of obesity, high blood pressure, and cancer, among other diseases. Yet many Americans still fail to achieve their health goals. Are they not getting the message? 

The truth is that many Americans do get the message—they are simply unmotivated by it. Humans are motivated by instant gratification and emotions. Therefore, telling people about the long-term benefits of exercise makes logical sense, but it doesn’t make them feel good in the present moment. Most people don’t want to wait for some future benefit to manifest. They want to do things that make them happy right now. 

Furthermore, we’ve been conditioned to believe that exercise must be an intense and sweaty affair that you engage in for hours every day. This fallacy often makes people quit their exercise regimen after a short period. The reality is that any kind of physical activity can count toward your daily exercise goals, no matter how brief or low-intensity it may be. This is the best way to make exercise a sustainable part of your lifestyle.

Actions to take

Escape the Vicious Cycle of Failure

“Our meaning for exercise is constructed out of not only our knowledge and feeling about it from our past socialization and experiences with it but also from our primary motivation—the why.”

There are a lot of people who join a gym to lead a healthier, more active lifestyle. However, research shows that 67% of gym memberships go unused after the first few weeks. Then, after a while, the individual feels guilty and rejoins the gym, only to quit again. This epidemic of starting-quitting-starting-quitting is referred to as the vicious cycle of failure. But why have we accepted this as a norm for achieving our fitness goals?

This is due to the assumption that we can just jump into an exercise routine and achieve the same instant results we see in TV commercials. We forget to consider how we think or feel about such a lifestyle change. To understand your unique ‘why,’ you have first to ask yourself what exercise means to you. The right ‘why’ can be a powerful motivator that allows you to cope with challenges and sustain your physical activity. 

Despite your best intentions, operating in the wrong ‘why’ ultimately leads you to failure. It’s not enough to say that you want to exercise to lose weight or become healthier. Such reasons are culturally acceptable, but they don’t provide the immediate rewards and feedback you need to exercise consistently. If you want to escape the vicious cycle of failure, you have to find the right reasons for your exercise.

Actions to take

Exorcise Your Limiting Beliefs About Exercise

“When people decide on their own to exercise at high intensities, they tolerate it better and experience less displeasure compared to when higher intensity exercise is imposed on them. Why? Because we are choosing to exercise in this way with self-determination.”

Most people who struggle to stick to an exercise routine say they force themselves to do various exercises they hate. However, since they don’t enjoy these exercises, they quickly get bored and lose the motivation to keep working out. This problem stems from our limiting beliefs about how exercise should look and feel. For example, many believe you can only lose weight if you engage in punishing workouts.  Though this may yield results in the short run, it won’t help you be consistent over a lifetime.

The reality is that how you feel about an activity is a better determinant of sustainability than the results you achieve. As long as you’re doing exercises that don’t feel good to you, you’ll quit working out the moment you hit your target weight. Paying attention to what your body is telling you about the physical activity you’re doing can help you find and focus on the pleasurable exercises that will keep you moving consistently. 

Some people enjoy strenuous workouts, but this is usually an autonomous choice. If something or someone else is forcing you to do high-intensity exercises, then you’re not going to enjoy and sustain your workout routine. Even punitive financial incentives don’t work. To create lasting behavioral change, you must own your choices, enjoy your exercise, and make it meaningful.

Actions to take

Every Movement Counts as Exercise

“Our goal as physical activity promoters has not been to make movements as easy as possible for everyone. Instead, we’ve been trying to make sure that people do it right. Thus it becomes easier for people not to do it at all.”

One of the biggest obstacles to exercise is the belief that it only counts if done in a single long session, ideally for more than 10 minutes. While this idea has since been debunked, it remains pervasive. It’s the reason why most people won’t bother to exercise if they have less than 10 minutes to spare. The truth is that engaging in any physical activity, even for less than 10 minutes, contributes to improved health. 

This is good news for everyone who claims to be too busy to work out. Research shows that too much sitting is just as dangerous as smoking. Therefore, if you spend your entire day sitting at a desk, you should know that any kind of movement that gets you up and out of your chair positively affects your health. By getting off your chair and moving consistently and frequently throughout your day, you can reap the cumulative benefits of a longer bout of exercise. 

A stringent medical model of exercise may seem like a good idea, but if most people aren’t motivated to sustain it over time, then the health benefits are minimal. But if you understand that any physical activity contributes to your health goals, you’re more likely to do whatever you can during your day. Regardless of how busy you are, you can always find at least a minute to exercise.

Actions to take

Prioritize and Schedule Your Self-care

“Caring for others and working with passion and dedication are wonderful impulses... But when caring for others overshadows our own daily needs and quality of life, we’ve lost the balance we need to generate our own energy and well-being—the literal fuel for what matters most.”

When we think of self-care, we often think of incorporating healthy habits into our lives. We think of self-care as simple things like getting eight hours of sleep, eating more fruits, and exercising more. However, because thousands of other options compete for our time and attention, taking care of ourselves starts to feel like a chore. 

In most cases, we tend to place self-care at the bottom of our daily to-do list because we’re too busy with work, family, and business, among others. Unfortunately, this creates a troubling paradox. By prioritizing others and putting ourselves last, our energies become depleted. It compromises our ability to be there for anyone or anything else in our lives. 

This is an unconscious result of how we were socialized. Growing up, we were taught to spend our time serving others at our well-being’s expense. It feels as if we have to ask someone else for permission just to take care of our own needs. 

Allowing ourselves to prioritize self-care deliberately is very important. We don’t have to feel like we ‘should’ do something just to meet social expectations. Instead, we need to change our mindset and embrace self-care as an essential aspect of our daily routine. We can also become self-care negotiators by learning how to create a self-care plan. This is the key to sustaining physical activity for the long term.

Actions to take

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