The number one excuse people often give for not exercising is that they do not have enough time. To some extent this may be true, but for some people the real problem is that they just do not like to exercise. They hear the word ‘exercise’ and they cringe. They know they should exercise, but they really don’t want to. Why is this? I remember back when we were kids running around playing tag, riding our bikes around the block, swimming, or playing other games … who remembers nightly games of ‘release’? When we finished playing, we did not say that was a good workout but more like that was a fun game.
Exercising has a bad reputation with some people. It may have started when you were in middle school and the teacher made you run as punishment or maybe it was your coach that made you do push-ups because you were late to practice. Either way a negative relationship with exercise started to grow and now when you think of exercising you equate it to punishment. This is not the goal of exercising! The goal is for you to enjoy yourself and to have fun with it. When you are enjoying yourself, the time passes by fast and you do not even realize how physically active you were.
Studies show that when exercise is enjoyed it is positively associated with self-esteem and perceived physical health. When you enjoy the exercise it also helps you to keep engaging in physical activity. As we know exercise is good for our health, but why are so many people not engaging in physical activity. Or why do people start a program but do not finish it? What motivates people to adhere to an exercise program is enjoyment. Enjoyment comes from within, it is an intrinsic motivator causing autonomy. When you choose to engage in physical activity you feel empowered making you feel better about yourself.
How can we change our perspective?
Look at exercising as a new hobby. Something you are excited to do because you enjoy it. How can you make this happen? One way is to get creative:
Make up an exercise challenge and include family and friends. Competition can be a great way to make exercising fun while creating a sense of community with your family and friends.
Choose a game you enjoyed as a kid and play it as an adult. Grab your family or your roommates and play a game of tag or kickball. Try freeze tag with a twist! Instead of running, lunge walk to each other and if you are frozen squat pulse until you are unfrozen. This is so much fun you will be laughing even though your legs may be burning!
Try a new activity! Go for a hike, paddle on the water, take a new type of class. You never know what you may find that you like. On this website, there are dance and hula hooping classes which can take you back to when you were a kid and just having fun.
Pump up the volume! Did you know that just playing your favorite tunes during exercise can increase the enjoyment factor? Exercise helps to distract us while we are working out, lowering our perception of fatigue and upping the fun factor.
Have a dog? Walk Fido, he will love you for it and it makes for a great cardio session! Or make a game out of your walk. For example, whenever you get to a driveway, you have to sprint across it because it is hot lava.... I played this game all the time with my friends, Chrissy and Lori, as we walked to catch the school bus. On those game days, we made amazing time and we didn’t even realize that we were doing interval training!
The key to these ideas is to make exercise enjoyable and not make it feel like it is just another chore that needs to be checked off your to do list. Exercise should be your time to step away from your hectic life and do something you take pleasure in. Now go out and find your joy!
Furzer, B., Rebar, A., Dimmock, J. A., More, A., Thornton, A. L., Wright, K., Jackson, B. (n.d.). Exercise is medicine… when you enjoy it: Exercise enjoyment, relapse prevention efficacy, and health outcomes for youth within a drug and alcohol treatment service. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 52.
Cynthia Morales completed her Bachelors of Science degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Fitness at Long Beach State University. She loves promoting healthy lifestyle changes and helping people through their own journey to help them reach their wellness goals.