How Can We Increase and Maintain Motivation Levels While Physically Active?

Posted by Team Kakana in Daily Dose on April 28, 2022 # Health, Exercise

Kakana LogoSign up for a free membership with Kakana.

Participating in physical activity for individuals with disabilities produces numerous psychological benefits, including increased self-confidence, body image, level of independence, quality of life, as well as reduced anxiety and depressive symptoms. Despite these psychological benefits of engaging in physical activity, motivation levels can have a huge impact on an individual’s ability to consistently exercise or participate in sport. However, there are several strategies to help an individual increase and maintain motivation levels to consistently engage in physical activity. Below are 4 key strategies to help you increase and maintain your motivation levels regarding physical activity.

1. Goal setting: setting and monitoring goals
Setting and monitoring goals are a great way to challenge yourself and monitor your progress. This can be a collaborative activity with your caregiver or your physical activity buddy. It is helpful to report your goals down in a journal or notebook to keep track of them. When setting goals, ensure you follow the “SMART” acronym:

Specific (is this goal as specific as possible?)
Measurable (how will I know when I achieved this goal?)
Achievable (is this goal achieved but also excites me?)
Realistic (is this goal realistic for what else is going on in my life right now?)
Time-bound (by when do I want to achieve this goal?)

Setting SMART process goals is key to maintaining motivation levels. Process goals are smaller goals that we focus on to improve our skills and behaviors. Setting process goals can help us break down our big goals into smaller processes which can be more effective in helping us achieve our outcome goals. Start by choosing 1 process goal that you can work on over the next couple of weeks.

Process goal: I am going to handcycle 3 days a week (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday) for 30 minutes and increase the distance I’ve cycled on a weekly basis by 2 minutes each week.
Outcome goal: Improve cardiovascular fitness levels after 1 month

May sure to keep track of your goals by recording them down in a journal or notebook and assessing your progress on a weekly basis!

2. Self-talk
Self-talk is a psychological strategy consisting of how an individual talk to themselves using cue words or phrases. Self-talk is directly linked to an individual’s intrinsic motivation in which the individual takes responsibility for their actions and engages in activities based on enjoyment. How an individual talks to themselves before and during physical activity can have a huge influence on their intention to engage in physical activity and the likelihood of them continuing to engage in physical activity in the future.

There are two different forms of self-talk: helpful self-talk and unhelpful self-talk. Helpful self-talk refers to cue words and phrases an individual says to themselves to improve their physical activity performance, whereas unhelpful self-talk refers to cue words and phrases that decrease an individual’s physical activity performance. When using self-talk, it can be helpful to ask yourself 2 questions “is talking to myself in that way helpful or unhelpful?” “What would I tell my friend to say to themselves in this situation?” E.g., I would tell my friend to say to themselves, “I can do this! I’ve done it before!”

3. Social support: engaging in online group physical activity
Engaging in group exercise classes online can be a fun and engaging way for individuals to virtually develop social connections. By being a part of this online community, the individual receives on-going support from their instructors and other participants in the class. This on-going support can enhance an individual’s self-belief and their ability to overcome challenging moments whilst engaging in physical activity.

4. Achievement Journal
Each week, reflect on 3 physical activity accomplishments in your journal:
For example:
1. I was able to handcycle for 8 straight minutes this week
2. I was able to get in and out of my wheelchair without assistance every day this week
3. I participated in 2 online group classes

Reflecting on your physical activity achievements each week can help increase your self-confidence and self-esteem in your abilities, as well as maintain motivation levels to continue participating in various forms of physical activity.

The information contained on this website is presented for the purpose of educating people about paralysis. Nothing contained on this website should be construed nor is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider. Learn more here.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.