The best type of exercise is the one you enjoy doing. Exercise is something that should be fun and enjoyable. If it’s not, how long are you going to keep doing it?
Why People may Hate Exercise
Many people view exercise as something they have to do. Or should do. Like a chore that hangs over them waiting to be completed. Some people talk themselves out of doing it altogether. Others toil away in a gym or pound the pavement running even though they don’t like it. It doesn’t take long before they quit. Or at least learn to dread their routine exercise session.
There are many reasons people may not find fun in exercise. It could be a lack access to exercise facilities or a safe environment to exercise in. Others may not have the social support needed for them to exercise. While some people are embarrassed to exercise in front of others. This could be due to cultural reasons, which may affect women more than men, and being self-conscious about their appearance. Additionally, adverse childhood experiences may also be a reason for not wanting to exercise. Even not getting the results one expects can deter people from continuing.
While these barriers are real, exercise itself can reduce these barriers. For example, exercise increases your self-esteem and may improve body satisfaction. It can also help people through trauma. We also need to be mindful we all respond to exercise differently. That’s normal. We’re all unique so how your body gets in better shape or strength, may be different from how mine does. And you don’t need to force yourself to a gym, buy fancy clothes, or diligently track your progress (although many people find this motivating). But finding what works for you, will help put the fun back into exercise.
Exercising for Health is a Good Long-term Goal, But…
Exercise is defined as a structured time of physical activity aimed at improving fitness. But there are plenty of ways to accomplish this doing activities you might not think of as exercise. A brisk walk to the store for 20–30 minutes could do this. A game of tennis. Even pushing a lawn mower may be enough to get the heart rate up for some people.
Exercise is often promoted because of its many health benefits. But health usually isn’t the reason people get up in the morning to break a sweat. While health may get people started, it’s generally too abstract to provide motivation day in and day out. When I exercise, I’m not thinking of how it will reduce my chances for disease, or help me live longer. For me, I like the feeling of being fit. My body feels stronger and I have more confidence. I’m also in a better mood after I exercise. You may have other reasons for exercising (or wanting to exercise). What’s important, is what matters to you.
Having long-term goals for your exercise can definitely help. It may be to improve your health, run a 10 km faster or even beat your friend in tennis. However, long-term goals aren’t always enough to keep us going. We’re a species of instant gratification and need to enjoy things in the moment, not just how we might feel a few days, weeks or months down the line. That’s why even with long-term goals, you need to enjoy exercise to keep doing it.
Putting the Fun Into Your Exercise
As a kid you were probably running, jumping and spinning around, getting your heart rate up and sweating. You were effectively exercising, and it was fun. To get back to that place, think of the things you enjoy. Are you a social person, or do you prefer alone time to clear your thoughts? Are you competitive, or easy going? Are you practical and like the idea of doing multiple things at once? Do you like to save money?
Regardless of how you answered those questions, there’s an exercise and path to fitness for you. For example, if you like to be time efficient and save money, using your bike (or ebike) to commute may be the answer. In urban centres, riding a bike (and sometimes even walking) can be faster than transit and driving, it will also cost less.
If you’re highly competitive or goal-oriented and like or need accountability, sign up for a fitness event. This could be a fun run, a bike ride for charity or a 3 on 3 basketball tournament with friends. Having this goal will give you motivation and structure to your program. Same goes if you’re social. Workout with an exercise buddy or join a club or class to go to.
These are great ways to add fun into your exercise routine. And once you start exercising, you’ll notice how good you feel afterwards. You’re less stressed, refreshed and more productive for the rest of the day. And you’ll want to keep doing it. A CEO of the local YMCA told me years ago; People come for the facilities but stay for the community. That’s the key. You may start exercising because you want to be in shape, but you will stick to it because you enjoy it.
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This post was originally published on October 30, 2019 and updated on November 30, 2022.
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