While there might be eleventy billion reasons to skip your workout on a given day — like when it’s two degrees outside and the last thing you want to do is trek to the gym — it’s pretty clear that exercise is important to staying healthy. Despite how compelling the urge to stay in bed and get cozy with Netflix can be, keeping up with your exercise routine matters. And according to a new study published in the journal PLOS, people who know the benefits of exercise tend to exercise more. A simple trick to get yourself to exercise more? Remembering all the reasons why exercise is great for you can help motivate you to work out — especially when you’d rather be doing pretty much anything else.
According to the Australian study, most people have a somewhat limited understanding of how much exercise they need, and what the full benefits actually are. Central Queensland University researchers found, however, that the more you know about why exercise is so good for you, the more likely you are to work out regularly. In a survey of 615 Australian adults, researchers found that, while the vast majority of participants knew that exercise is healthy, most weren’t aware of the actual diseases associated with not exercising. Over half of those surveyed were unaware of how much exercise they need to stay healthy, and 80 percent of study participants didn’t know “the probabilities of developing diseases without physical activity,” according to a recent press release.
"Most people know that physical activity is good for health. Few people know the specific benefits of physical activity for health, and it may be this specific knowledge that positively influences their physical activity behavior,” lead study author Stephanie Schoeppe said in the press release.
Having a general notion that exercise is a good thing is not necessarily a powerful enough motivation to get people moving regularly, the researchers note. The researchers applied a similar system related to smoking, where knowledge about smoking's health risks can help people stop smoking. “Briefly, level 1 knowledge is ‘having heard that smoking increases health risks’, level 2 knowledge is ‘being aware that specific diseases are caused by smoking’, level 3 knowledge is ‘accurately appreciating the severity and probabilities of developing tobacco-related diseases’, and level 4 knowledge is ‘accepting that the risks inherent in levels 1–3 directly apply to one’s own risk of developing such diseases’. These four levels of knowledge can also be applied to physical activity.”
Not surprisingly, the study participants who knew *exactly* which diseases they were warding off through exercise were more likely to work out, Well + Good notes. Knowing the specifics as to why exercise is so dang healthy may help bust you out of ruts, and can help keep you going when motivation starts to wane.
Sometimes, the only difference between a workout happening, or not, is the mindset you bring to exercising. Finding your why, or whys, for working out, and keeping them at the forefront of your mind can help get you moving when the urge to skip your yoga class hits, according to PsychCentral.
According to the Australian study, getting super specific in your knowledge about the benefits of exercise makes all the difference. Knowing that your commitment to working out is helping you sidestep 22 diseases that can result from inactivity, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer, while helping boost your life expectancy by up to seven years, can help keep you focused and motivated in your commitment to regular exercise.