Top 50 reasons to exercise revealed

The top reasons to exercise include wanting to beat a partner’s personal best, fit into old clothes, and shaking off a bad mood.

A study of 2,000 adults reveals the top 50 list of reasons to get moving – with not wanting to let down a workout partner and the social element of training with a friend also featuring.

And it seems mental health has an impact, with increasing confidence, taking your mind off other things and achieving something topping the list – above physical goals and accomplishments.

It also emerged that a quarter have lacked motivation since the lockdowns began compared to before, with 23 per cent putting this down to not having anything to train towards.

A further fifth attribute this to not being in a gym environment, while 15 per cent have struggled because they haven’t been able to work out with friends.

But 29 per cent have turned to online workouts during the lockdowns, with a fifth believing they exercise best when someone is telling them what to do.

The research, commissioned by Sure to launch its Movemate Series, found 20 per cent are boosted or spurred on when working out with or around others.

More than a third admit they don’t often push themselves as much as they should when exercising and a quarter don’t put in as much effort when working out on their own.

And the most encouraging things a fitness buddy or personal trainer can say were found to include ‘keep going’, ‘little but often can make a huge difference’ and ‘don’t give up’. The study, commissioned via OnePoll, also found factors that keep people going included nice weather (44 per cent), upbeat music (33 per cent) and thinking of the end goal (33 per cent).

And the exercises people need the biggest boost for included a solo brisk walk, a visit to the gym on their own and a lone jog. Whereas team sports, a group run and a bike ride with others require the least motivation, suggesting it’s more difficult to get going when working out alone.

The nation’s favourite exercises were revealed as cycling, running and water-based sports such as swimming.

The research comes after a separate pilot study by Sure with partnered exercise-enthusiasts found that 70 per cent found themselves working harder when joined by a partner for a workout. Six in ten observed a higher heart rate and more than half claimed they burnt almost twice the calories.

Says chartered sports psychologist, Dr Josephine Perry:

“We all know we should be exercising and that it brings lots of benefits but when motivation is low and stress levels are high it can be hard to get going.

“Psychological studies have found that one of the best ways to boost motivation is to exercise with others; it makes us work harder, increases our accountability and, most importantly, makes it more fun.

Sure’s Movemate Content Series is an online content hub helping Brits to make their workout routines more effective, simply by buddying up. For more information go to

Dr Josephine’s seven suggestions for moving with a mate: 

1. Smile at each other. Studies show that when we see someone else smile, we smile back and when we smile we trick our brain into thinking the exercise we are doing is easier than it is and can keep going for longer.

2. Share reasons you are grateful. When we go hunting for things to be thankful for we focus more on the good stuff in life and so reframe difficult things more positively.

3. Agree your goal for the work out upfront so you keep pushing each other when the fatigue kicks in.

4. Practise using the words ‘yet’ or ‘and so’ with each other. Then for every negative phrase you state it can be twisted into something more helpful such as ‘This is hard… and so I’ll definitely benefit’ or ‘I can’t do this…Yet’.

5. Observe each other and pull out something you each do really well. Exercise feels easier when we have just received a compliment about the skills we are using.

6. Remind each other when the other’s technique falters. We can get lax on our own but having someone next to you to prompt; shoulders back, core strong or feet higher, keeps us working at our best.

7. Make a bit of the session competitive – and have a punishment for the loser; like exercises of those other’s choice or paying for the post workout coffees.

Top 50 motivations to exercise:

1. To take your mind off other things
2. To achieve something
3. To increase your overall confidence
4. Wanting to hit a target weight
5. To improve your sleep
6. To prove to yourself you can exercise
7. Going on holiday
8. Wanting to fit into old clothes
9. To shake off a bad mood
10. You get a buzz from exercising / feeling fit
11. To zone out from your thoughts e.g. work stress or relationship woes
12. Weighing yourself for the first time in months
13. Wanting to feel confident in swimwear
14. Seeing old photos
15. Going travelling
16. Knowing that if you exercise you can reward yourself e.g. with food or a purchase
17. To improve your skin
18. Advice from your GP
19. To prove to others you can exercise
20. Wanting to take up a new hobby
21. For the social aspect e.g. catching up with friends while on a run
22. Being a guest at a wedding
23. Feeling competitive against others
24. Wanting to play with your children
25. To meet new people
26. Your own wedding day
27. If your housemate/partner is on a health kick
28. Going on a date
29. Seeing how good your peers feel after exercising
30. Seeing how you looked on a video call
31. To not miss out when your friends meet up to exercise
32. Not wanting to let down a workout partner
33. A first holiday with a new partner
34. To win a competition e.g. most steps walked in a month
35. To train for a fitness competition
36. To keep up with a training partner
37. An excuse to buy new exercise clothes
38. Wanting to beat your partner/friend’s personal best
39. Starting a new job
40. Comparing yourself to celebrities
41. Seeing other people’s personal best scores on an exercise app
42. Posting images of yourself on social media
43. Having a personal trainer
44. To get back at bullies who made fun of your appearance or weight
45. Wanting to be able to take part in your child’s sports day
46. To try out a new trend
47. To update my fitness achievements on Instagram
48. Following an Instagram ‘live’ workout
49. Wanting to share your personal best on social media
50. Going to a school reunion

Chris Price


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