Exercise. The very mention of it conjures memories of abrasive early alarms, sweat and burning muscles. Gruelling workouts, thinking to yourself how you’d rather be doing something else.
However…it doesn’t have to be so.
Hear me out here, but what if, WHAT IF exercise didn’t have to feel like a chore. What if exercise could be fun. Impossible you say. No chance, right!?
Like anything in life, if we find something we enjoy, taking part and regularly performing the activity is easy. Practice doesn’t feel like practice – we do it because we enjoy it. And over time, because of this regular engagement we develop a habit for it, so much so that we miss it when we don’t take part daily or weekly.
We all know the benefits of exercise. We’re often reminded of how important it is for our heart health, our brain health, our lung health, our muscle health, our bone health…you get the picture. So why can it still be so difficult to exercise?
Because for many of us we are yet to find a form of exercise that is enjoyable.
Exercise really doesn’t have to be so complicated. It’s all about moving the body in a stimulating and relevant way to prime the body for the challenges we encounter in day to day life. If you have greater aspirations, such as completing a 10km run in a certain amount of time, or lifting a certain amount of weight, then sure, more specific parameters can be prescribed.
But for many, it’s often about simply moving more. And maybe even re-framing physical activity as movement – avoid the word exercise altogether.
So here are my top four tips for those who genuinely dislike exercise, including practical strategies on how to move more and get closer to the recommended amounts of physical activity.
1. Start Small
Becoming aware of the amount of movement you are achieving each day is an important step. A reliable way of understanding this is by tracking the amount of steps you are performing across a day/week/month. GPS watches and most smart phones have a Health app that monitors this throughout the day, providing you are wearing them of course.
It is common at Restart to set goals around more steps/day during an initial appointment with a new patient. In the case of a patient who’s averaging ~2,000 steps/day, we might discuss strategies to increase this to ~5,000 steps/day as a first step. For someone covering ~5,000, we might challenge them to increase this to ~10,000.
I recall numerous circumstances where a patient with a goal of X amount of steps/day has reportedly walked multiple laps of their house before bedtime to achieve their daily steps goal. This might seem like a fairly modest or insignificant change, but walking more ticks the important box of being incidentally more active and spending less time sedentary.
Strategies to walk more throughout the day include:
- Set an alarm every 45 minutes to walk to the fridge and fill up your drink bottle;
- Walk and talk during your next phone call;
- Disembark the bus/train on your morning commute one stop early and walk the remaining distance;
- Walk to the shops instead of driving, or park in the farthest corner of the car-park;
- Add an extra block to your morning dog walk.
2. Find ways to move more without realising
If you have recently watched the Netflix doco ‘Secrets of the Blue Zones‘ hosted by Dan Buettner, you will have witnessed the incredible longevity of centenarians in five ‘hot-spots’ around the globe. The documentary focuses on the similarities that these populations share, and if any insights or ‘secrets’ can be discovered as to how they are living such long and healthful lives.
The documentary talks about “making movement a habit”. Each of the centenarians, and many incredibly mobile individuals aged in their 80s and 90s, attest to the importance of being active throughout the day. Many of these people have maintained a traditional way of life, avoiding the traps of modern technology and automation. They wield an axe to chop firewood, kneed bread by hand, walk to visit their friends and family, and crouch up and down continuously as they tend to their garden.
Other examples of being more active throughout the day include:
- swapping the leaf blower for a broom or rake next time you tidy the yard;
- tidy your hedges with garden shears instead of an electric hedge-trimmer;
- balance on one foot as you brush your teeth;
- buy a 20kg kettlebell, and place it in a prominent position at home. Each time you walk past, lift it 3x. Repeat this 20x throughout the day and before you know it you’ve lifted 1.2 tonnes (speak to an Exercise Physiologist to ensure strong and safe technique 😉).
3. Enlist loved ones to provide social support and accountability
Combining social time and movement can be a great way to make movement more enjoyable. It’s a no-brainer to see that sticking to a morning walk is all the more likely if it means spending time to debrief and catch-up with your closest friends or family members.
There’ll be days when you won’t feel up to exercise, or could simply put it off ’til tomorrow. But if someone is there to keep you on track, the more likely movement will become a habit!
4. Return to an old pastime, or try something new
Sometimes when a patient presents for their first appointment and we are strategising how to become more active, I will ask if they previously played any sports that they particularly enjoyed, or were naturally good at. This can rekindle a lost love for a form of movement that was genuinely fun – whether it be getting in the pool to swim laps, bush-walking to be amongst nature, or striking that competitive itch with a game of squash.
Is there a pastime or hobby that you previously found enjoyment in, and would like to get back into?
I also have many examples of patients who are yet to find a form of movement that they enjoy, which is totally okay. To their surprise, once they try for example strength training, they are surprised at how much they begin to like it. The physical and mental challenge of lifting progressively heavier weights, and feeling the benefits of becoming stronger, can become very satisfying.
I have a current patient who has just started playing Pickleball, and is loving her once-per-week sessions with friends (combining tips #3 and #4 ). Being open to new experiences and new forms of activity could reveal a new passion, even if it’s something as simple as throwing a frisbee with your kids!
Make Movement a Habit
In summary, making movement a habit will unlock a vast number of health benefits, ranging from achieving a healthy bodyweight, to improving mobility and flexibility, to improving mood and mental well-being.
We understand that getting started can be a challenge, especially if you have an injury or health condition that makes you unsure of what is and what isn’t suitable.
As Exercise Physiologists, our forté is helping people move more, in an appropriate way for them and their unique selves. If you are someone who dislikes exercise but would like to move more and have some fun along the way, call 1300 899 757 or book online to make an initial appointment.