Why are we lacking motivation to work out during a global pandemic?

Monday, 18th May 2020

There’s undoubtedly a shadow cast over everything we do (and can’t do) right now amid the global Coronavirus pandemic. Exercise is supposed to be a cure-all, but these unprecedented times are making it hard for many of us to muster the strength to work out.

That lack of motivation, mental health experts say, is understandable and completely normal in the short term.

Experts say: “Life in general has slowed down a lot right now and kinetic energy we have from waking up in the morning, darting out of the house and going to work motivates and inspires us. But now that routine is broken up, making it more difficult for people to find motivation.”

Why don’t I feel motivated anymore?

We don’t have to tell you that those who regularly exercise are creatures of habit. And when those habits are broken, it can be a shock to the system.

Many sports psychologists believe that ‘as with everything, there isn’t a one-size-fits all answer’ and 'maybe you don’t have a goal to strive for or you feel like you’re not getting much done or your sleep cycle is off.’

Any of those things on their own can cause people to ditch their routine. Add an immense time of uncertainty, stress and isolation and the whole situation provokes anxiety.

For some, not having a group to exercise with or be surrounded by has been a huge obstacle in getting active.

“Without that structure and motivation at the start of my day, I just slipped,’’ says Pendle Leisure Trust’s Activo member Mike Taubman, who went from training 6-7 times a week to 3. “A group fitness environment can be key, even if no one talks to me in the gym, just being surrounded my others motivates me to push that bit harder”.

The pandemic has taken away people’s structure, their competition. It’s taken away life as they know it. When you think about it that way, it’s not surprising that many don’t feel motivated.

I just don’t want to work out. How can I break out of this rut?

At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with skipping a handful of workouts and doing so might actually provide a needed break. But there’s no question that regular physical exercise can significantly improve mental health.

A 2017 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that people aged 20 and older who engaged in little physical activity were more likely to experience depression and other health related conditions - such as high blood pressure or cholesterol - compared with those who engaged in vigorous activity.

In other words, regular, moderate exercise, of any sorts, can help prevent and treat depression along with other health conditions.

Exercise has been shown to be as effective, if not more so, at combatting things like depression and anxiety than any medication and exercise is a great way to manage stress.

The best way to get back into an exercise routine is slowly.

“It’s all about eating the elephant one bite at a time - break it down into manageable chunks,” says Pendle Leisure Trust’s Health and Fitness Manager, Luke Allwood.

“You don’t have to work out every day or match your pre-Coronavirus work rate. Instead, commit to one or two workouts a week at whatever time you feel like. Or don’t work out and instead try going for a run, walk in the park or just have a stretch in the living room.”

We recommend putting together a daily schedule to help bring structure back into the picture. Even if you’re not going to work, set an alarm to wake up at a certain time; schedule a lunch break and a workout - creating time and space for it is important because it lets you know it’s something we need, like food, water or air.