For a long time I did not see exercise as enjoyable, I saw it as a means to an end. To get fit and keep fit I needed to log a certain amount of hours or miles and only felt any kind of satisfaction when it was completed. Sometimes working out was pure misery. Sometimes I was sick, like puke your guts out during early pregnancy kind of sick. Sometimes I was really tired and needed a rest more than a work out. But I didn’t ever really stop to listen to my body during those times, I just plowed ahead regardless.
When we treat exercise as a punishment or chore rather than something pleasurable that we get to do, we are sending the message to ourselves that our bodies deserve to be punished instead of nurtured. Now I am not saying that people should not move or work out, I am talking about the relationship our bodies have with exercise.
There was a study done recently by Health Sciences Professor Tim Olds of the University of South Australia which pertains to this very topic. The study involved over 200 subjects ranging in age from 18-75 and sought to determine how enjoyable the subjects found their daily activities. The study found that people who were active doing activities that they found enjoyable (team sports and exercises including tai chi, yoga, strength training, water aerobics and Australian football all appeared in the top 10 with enjoyment levels at 9 or 10 out of 10) were more likely to keep doing those activities regularly. Another thing Professor Olds said about the findings of the study is very interesting. He mentioned that increasing the enjoyment during activity also reduced stress and inflammation linked with disease. Not enjoying an activity however, can actually promote stress and inflammation in the body which is actually doing a body more harm than the good intended by most who exercise in the first place.
“There’s pretty good evidence which shows people who do things they enjoy are healthier. They are probably healthier because it reduces stress and inflammation – which is at the heart of chronic diseases,” he said.
Another point to note is that exercise does not need to be as intense or hardcore as we might imagine to reap the benefits. As Professor Olds communicates,
“You don’t have to be a marathon runner, but movement is important. If people restructure their life to basically enjoy themselves more, I think it would really make big inroads, not just for obesity, but for other diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis.”
If you get to do something that you genuinely love and look forward to doing, you are much more likely to stick with it long term. I love my workouts and for the most part I really look forward to them. Its not just “working out” to me anymore. It is a chance to do something I enjoy for awhile and relieve some stress and feel invigorated.
I no longer feel guilty if for some reason (travel, sickness, family issues etc…) I don’t get a planned workout in. It’s okay, it really is. It took me so long to get to this place of acceptance. As a perfectionist by nature I like to think I can achieve and accomplish and never “fail” and not working out was an equivalent to “failure” in my mind. If you are someone who has these same tendencies be careful because you can easily be trapped in the mental gymnastics of always trying to measure up with what you think you should be able to get accomplished.
Remember back to when you were a kid and you just loved playing outside, or playing team sports, or dancing or swimming or climbing and you could do it for hours just for the pure enjoyment of it? I think that that mindset is what a lot of us need to get back to when it comes to how we move our bodies.
Do you enjoy your current form of exercise? Do you look forward to doing it most of the time? What types of exercise/movement do you like the most?