Struggling To Get Fit? This Might Be What You're Missing

If you're struggling to find motivation to fit in your morning yoga session, run after work, or hike on the weekend, you're not alone. A recent study showed that thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, we're more sedentary than ever: In fact, the survey showed that people are sitting an extra eight hours per week on average. 

Strangely enough, the people who were most likely to exercise regularly before COVID-19 have found it the most difficult to stay moving. "It appears that the participants who were most physically active before the pandemic may have been the most negatively affected," Kent State professor and lead author on the study Jacob Barkley explained.

That might be because the number one motivation to exercise, according to a 2016 study, is competition. And right now, there aren't many competitive options, with almost every 5K race canceled, in-person fitness classes severely curtailed, and many states suggesting exercising alone or with your household only. The answer? Get competitive.

How to compete without IRL competition

The study found that gaining support from your community, online or in real life, actually could hurt your ability to exercise regularly. "Supportive groups can backfire because they draw attention to members who are less active, which can create a downward spiral of participation," Damon Centola, an associate professor in Penn's Annenberg School and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and senior author of the study explained in a press release. 

Rather than friendly support, healthy competition was more likely to spark lasting change (via the University of Pennsylvania). "Competitive groups frame relationships in terms of goal-setting by the most active members," said Centola. "These relationships help to motivate exercise because they give people higher expectations for their own levels of performance... In a competitive setting, each person's activity raises the bar for everyone else."

To regain that competitive spark, consider taking part in a virtual challenge if you can't compete in real life. In fact, you might find that virtual competition is even more motivating since you're able to race against people all over the world and choose a challenge that best suits your workout preferences (via the Cleveland Clinic). There are options that include monthly mileage goals or single-day races for runners, virtual racing on Zwift Island on your indoor stationary bike, and plenty of online fitness communities where you can log your daily workouts.