How to Actually Enjoy Exercise
Do you have one of those friends that loves to exercise? They may have signed up for a class at their local gym, or took up running to blow off some steam.
Why would someone willingly push themselves to sweat, ache, and be sore for a day or three after you exercise? We all know that exercise is important, improves your quality of life, and can help deal with stress and depression... but why would you enjoy doing it?
Related - Fighting Social Anxiety With Exercise
Exercise can be difficult to accomplish — going for a stroll after work sounds great, but walking into a messy house and hungry kids derail you from that plan. You want to get into shape, but deep down you hate exercising. If you hate exercising, you'll never make it a priority... you'll "never have time" to exercise.
But that's okay. Getting enough exercise can be easy once you make a few tweaks and try a few tips out.
These tips only work if you do.
Research suggests that most of us exercise because we want to lose weight, but give up when the scale isn't moving quickly enough. One study found women who said that weight loss is the primary motivation for exercise actually exercise less than those who have other reasons.
Exercise isn't something we have to force our bodies to do whether we like it or not. You don't have to hit that impossible standard. Citing "health" as your reason means your "why" is too vague and long term.
You aren't really worrying about the risk of having a heart attack at 60 when you decide to sleep through your morning run today. The Centers for Disease Control reports that only 48 percent of American adults are getting enough exercise to actually make a dent in their overall health.
But what would get you to exercise?
Many individuals have come to think of exercise as punishment for not being skinny anymore. Once you do start exercising, you constantly berate yourself for not going faster or lifting more weight. You start becoming compulsive about every detail and you despise it all. You get appalled as you jump on the scale to see you've gained weight.
There are a lot of ways you can get exercise.
Did you know that yoga is still considered cardio due to moving large major muscle groups and increases your heart rate? Of course, there are different degrees of intensity. In order to get the maximum benefit from your workouts, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests performing two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week. This will help stave off long-term complications like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Your intensity matters. When they suggest two and a half hours of moderate-intensity exercise, they don't mean a long stroll around your neighborhood. You'll have to push yourself some.
Research found over the course of ten years, people who reported regular brisk walking or jogging saw their risk for metabolic syndrome get cut in half. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of symptoms that increases your chance of diabetes and heart disease. The same study found people that walked slowly — even if it is for an hour — experienced no such benefit.
This was according to data on 10,000 adults from the Copenhagen City Heart Study.
Researchers at the University of Alabama directly supervised the workout programs of 72 women and found that those who jogged and lifted weights just twice a week gained as much aerobic fitness and strength and burned almost 300 calories more per day than those doing the same workout six days per week.
This is over the course of four months. Researchers found that those who exercised hardcore burned almost 200 calories less per day by the end of the study. They speculate this is due to being so exhausted from the scheduled workouts they would avoid other opportunities to move or burn calories like taking the stairs or going for a walk with your friend.
Researchers over at the University of Copenhagen found that subjects who exercised 30 minutes per day lost more weight than those who were clocking those hour-long workouts. They found the longer sessions caused participants to eat more and move less.
While these findings aren't always well-received by some public-health experts, there are a few points to consider. While the "get your heart rate up and burning calories" approach can work, a more moderate approach may be more suitable for real-life people — not lab-controlled settings with exactly how much you can eat, drink, sleep, and exercise. What about the person that just put 12 hours into their warehouse job that can lift on Tuesdays and Thursdays and rides their bike on the weekend?
There is a "golden standard" that has been set, but that is worthless when we have to take that and put it into the real world. People simply can't sustain it. It would make more sense to focus on the variables you can control rather than failing to reach two and a half hour standard.
You have to start small and find what works.
If you can only get an hour's worth of exercise in per week, that's okay. When it comes to physical activity we need to simply need to play around like recess until we can get it together.
Some people find yoga feels like playtime because they enjoy it. There are other activities you could find like hiking, biking, or playing ball sport. You need to pay attention to what activities you enjoy. Taking a walk or hike with your significant other to catch up at the end of a long week has health benefits.
You need to cultivate a lifelong relationship with movement. Only you can determine what that looks like day to day. Once you start finding what you like to do, you'll be disappointed or irritated that you couldn't exercise on that day.
If this happens two days in a row, you may likely not step foot in the gym for another month. If you want to take a 45-minute run and you only have 20 minutes, you may not even try.
The all-or-nothing mentality will derail many workouts. You'll need to find a strategy you can follow so that can help you fit in exercise if conditions aren't perfect. That could mean taking a brisk 10-minute walk instead of 30 minutes or completing a five-minute at-home aerobic exercise you found on YouTube.
Don't get caught up in how many calories you burn — consistency is more important than quantity. But if you're making physical activity a part of your life, you can have days off and it is fine — you will be back on the grind tomorrow.
The thing about consistency is that you could go for months without losing a bit of weight, but find that you workout more regularly, you enjoy it, and you are happier than you've ever been.
Your stamina is increasing and you find that normal exercise helps keep the migraines and asthma in check. You'll start to see some muscle definition come back, and you'll be able to lift more or hit more yoga poses than you could a few months ago.
It has to become part of your practice, but the mental shift is profound. So how do you get there? How do you start making exercise fun?
Before we jump into the tips, check this study out.
Researchers at the University of Freiburg published a study in the journal, PLOS ONE. The study was led by psychologist Hendrik Mothes, MS, of the Department of Sport Science at the University. The study wanted to show that we commit to workout programs that we enjoy, and we tend to enjoy workout programs that aren't perceived as overly strenuous.
Mothes and his team wanted to try to explore some factors that may change the perceptions on the strenuousness of a workout.
They took 78 volunteers and were asked to cycle for 30 minutes on a stationary bike. Before the workout, Mothes assigned participants into four groups: The first group was told the exercise would result in health benefits. Group two was told it probably wouldn't be all that healthy. Group three was given a compression shirt that would "supposedly" enhance their health rewards.
Group four also was given a compression shirt, but they were told it was simply for comparison purposes.
During their workout, Mothes kept track of how hard the volunteers thought they were working and how strenuous the cycling felt. They were then asked to rate their perceived exertion during their 30 minutes of cycling.
The researchers had a hunch, but as expected, they found the first group — the ones that were told if would make them healthier — worked out easier than their counterparts who experienced no benefits. The compression shirt participants who anticipated extra health benefits found the exercise easier — but this was only true for volunteers who identified as less athletically inclined.
Mothes and his team suggest this is evidence of the placebo effect in exercise — if you focus on the benefits, you won't mind the effort as much. The gadgets and gear really only help people without a strong athletic background.
Mothes notes "people who feel only a little athletic can raise their perceived physical abilities by focusing their attention on the compression garment, people who already feel athletic cannot raise their perceived physical abilities much by a potentially helpful product."
Of course, even Mothes says these are only assumptions so far. More research is needed to reveal the real underlying mechanisms that are at play.
How to Actually Enjoy Exercise
When it comes to actually enjoying exercise, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up for success.
Across the world, many cultures are healthy and do not have any formal exercise that we know of. The very active lifestyles they lead can continue into their 80s and 90s. But for Americans, the lifestyle simply isn't that active.
We are very sedentary and exercise is what counteracts all of the damage we do daily from being sedentary.
#1 - Make it a Habit
In order to make exercise a habit, you need to schedule time to exercise. You have time, you just aren't prioritizing exercise. Schedule time and consistently reserve 30 minutes of physical activity three times per week. You can't use this time for anything else.
Do you still need to buy the right shoes and find the best workout routine? Take this time to find the schedule that works best for you and start practicing setting time aside. As you find the right schedule and start finding exercise tolerable, you'll start to feel compelled to exercise. You'll start getting cranky if you don't get your morning run in.
#2 - Watch Your Challenge Level
Oftentimes, individuals don't watch their challenge levels when first starting out. They generally either exercise so hard they are puking, or they walk around the gym and hardly do anything.
One challenges yourself too hard, while the other doesn't challenge you enough. The goal is to find the routine that challenges you but doesn't overwhelm you.
Finding an activity you enjoy makes a difference.
#3 - Set Goals
Before you start off with thinking about how much weight you want to lose, try setting goals that are more fitness-related. Set a goal to beat your record on how far you ran, how many push ups or chin ups you can do, how far you can stretch, or how much you can lift.
Fitness goals turn the gym into a game to where you're striving to beat your previous best. Once you fall in love with that game, exercise will be enjoyable.
#4 - Push Past Your Comfort Zone
Being self-conscious throws some big obstacles in your way to enjoying exercise. There's not a lot you can do here but to go anyways. Once you keep going, you will get used to it.
You'll get more comfortable in the gym and you won't focus on what other gym patrons are doing. You are there for you and your workout.
#5 - Don't be Afraid to Experiment
When starting out, you never know what type of exercise you enjoy. Sign up for spin classes, take a hike, go for a run, play some ball, or go swimming. There are endless ways to get physical activity in — finding what you like is up to you.
Sign up for martial arts or dancing. Pumping iron and running aren't the only ways to exercise and enjoy the health benefits from exercising.
#6 - Short Workouts are Okay
If you don't have the time or the motivation for an hour-long sweat fest, just go for a shorter workout. Getting up and moving is important — don't completely miss a workout because you only had 20 minutes instead of your usual 60 to exercise.
For days you are short on time, don't be afraid to up your intensity levels due to a shorter amount of time.
#7 - Exercise is Stress Relief
Many people I know swear by the gym for stress relief. If you're having a frustrating day, go take it out on the weights. Exercise can be cathartic and help release negative feelings.
Once you can use exercise as an outlet to relieve your stress, you'll start going to the gym because you are stressed instead of skipping a workout.