BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. – Many people profess to hate exercise, but there are ways to get motivated and even learn to enjoy keeping fit, said a University of Missouri Extension nutrition and health education specialist.

“Many people get off to a bad start by taking the all-or-nothing approach,” said Lynda Johnson.

Trying to exercise each day can leave a sedentary person sore, overwhelmed and feeling unable to stay on task. “It’s important to give yourself some slack and not get discouraged. Missing a few days of exercise doesn’t constitute failure,” she said.

Johnson recommends focusing on small changes over time to stay motivated:

-Commit to move in a new direction with your lifestyle. Identify a successful role model who improved his or her health by increasing physical activity and eating sensibly. Make the choice to go for a walk rather than watch TV. Walk up the escalator and take the stairs instead of the elevator.

-Believe in your ability to change. List previous successes and record your activity on a calendar. A few days with no exercise will not ruin your efforts. Be confident that you can get back on track. Rather than being envious of friends who stay in shape with regular exercise, learn from their success.

-Create a plan to stay active that will work over the long haul. Experiment until you discover physical activities you really enjoy. Try line dancing, bowling, weightlifting, water aerobics, exercise classes or yoga.

-If you usually exercise outside, make a backup plan for days when the weather is bad, such as having an exercise DVD for indoor workouts.

-Keep a pair of sneakers by your desk or the door as a reminder to walk.

-Place hand weights next to the TV so you can exercise while watching your favorite program.

-Find a cheerleader—a friend, co-worker or family member who can offer encouragement. Regular phone calls, e-mails or visits can provide that motivational boost to keep you on target. Your cheerleader could even become an exercise buddy, making physical activity more enjoyable.

-Celebrate as you make simple changes that support your overall goal.

“People may think they simply lack the willpower to change, but this really isn’t the issue,” Johnson said. “It’s making the decision to chart your plan of action based on small, incremental changes that will lead to improved health.”

If you think you don’t have time to exercise, try tracking your activities in half-hour intervals for one day. This can help you find ways to save time and build exercise into your schedule.

“We all have 24 hours each day,” Johnson said. “It’s all in our choices and commitment to change.”