How to think yourself into a fit person.
Many of us, aware of the benefits of exercise, try to stick to a routine, only to find our sneakers at the back of the closet when the weather doesn’t co-operate, our routine is disrupted or we are short of time.
One way to turn an exercise fling into a long-term commitment is to develop an exercise identity. An exercise identity is what we imagine when we think of an “exerciser.” For most, this is someone who goes to the gym regularly or prioritizes their walk despite a busy schedule.
When we adopt an exercise identity, physical activity becomes a part of who we are and a powerful standard that can drive behaviour.
Other researchers agree with the power of exercise identity and have described it as one of the largest psychological correlates of exercise.
1. Walk the walk
So how does an exercise identity help people develop an exercise habit?
Exercisers feel uncomfortable when they don’t play the part and this discomfort can be motivating. Our research showed that people with a strong exercise identity who imagined not exercising for three weeks felt worse (more guilty), intended to get their exercise back on track and had more plans about how they would do this than people with a weaker exercise identity.
Identifying with exercise gives people an advantage. People with a strong exercise identity have plentiful and strong exercise plans and intentions. Their motivation to exercise also comes from quality sources — such as enjoyment or their values, rather than from guilt or pressure from others.
Exercise confidence is also strong among people with a solid exercise identity and all these things help people get moving.