By Michelle Murdolo, MS, RD, CDN
Exercise has many benefits. It helps reduce our risk of heart disease, manage our blood sugars, improve our mental health and mental clarity, improve our sleep, and of course strengthen our joints, bones and muscles and so much more. Some days we love doing it, and some days it’s not always the first thing on our list of “most exciting things I should do today.” But exercise doesn’t always need to be a drag. Here are some ways to make exercise more fun:
- Explore your hobbies. Learn what it is that you enjoy doing. Hate running? Don’t go for a run! Hate going to the gym, maybe getting outside to workout is more for you. Research shows the most sustainable exercise is exercise we enjoy. If we feel forced to exercise, that tends to raise our cortisol, or our stress hormone. All the more reason to find something you love.
- Join in with a friend. Having a friend or a teammate can make things a bit more fun and provide some extra motivation. On top of that, you have the added bonus of getting to spend more time with your friends. Find someone who shares your energy, goals and interests when it comes to physical activity.
- Don’t force yourself. There will come days when you Just. Don’t. Want. To. Do. It. That’s okay! This is a totally normal part of being a human. When these days come, don’t force yourself to exercise if it is going to make you miserable. This will decrease the benefits of exercise, can lead to resentment. Exercise on the days it makes you feel good, not miserable.
- Stop comparing. Everyone goes at a different pace and everyone is in a different place. Try not to compare yourself to others – you have no idea how long it took them to get to the place they’re at. Comparison does not help us reach our goals and instead leads to anxiety, negative mood and decreased self-compassion.
- Try a group fitness class. A group fitness class is a great way to explore a new form of movement, or a have a trained instructor guide you through one you already know you enjoy. Your instructor can keep an eye on your form and help you build up strength with repeated movements while also keeping things new and fun. Group classes are also a great way to meet new friends or connect with old ones. Try Pilates, yoga, spin, kickboxing or anything that sounds fun and exciting to you.
- Find a workout that fits your personality. Oftentimes we try workouts because they’re trendy, because others suggest them, or because we feel obligated. But if we don’t enjoy it or it doesn’t fit our personality then it isn’t sustainable. Take some time to think about what you like – do you enjoy an individual workout or a more social one? Do you like a fast-paced workout, or do you like to focus on connecting movement and breath? Indoor or outdoor? Spend some time exploring new types of movement that are more in line with your personality.
- Find the right soundtrack. Most exercisers report they enjoy their workout more when listening to music, and usually fast-paced music is what keeps the energy flowing. Research shows that music between 140-160 beats per minute is best for boosting mood and energy during workouts. Try searching “140 bpm” or “160 bpm” on your music streaming service for an upbeat soundtrack.
- Take the focus off weight – and think about why you enjoy moving your body. When we are moving our bodies for the purpose of changing them, we feel forced and obligated and may end up doing workouts we don’t enjoy. Instead, try using all the tips above to find a workout you enjoy, and then focus on all the reasons why moving your body makes you feel good. Maybe you have more energy throughout the day. Maybe over time you notice walking up the stairs is a little bit easier. Maybe you enjoy feeling stronger. Maybe you love the scenery on your walk. Whatever it is, tune into that and take the focus off the number on the scale.
- Cool down. Try not to go from all out to a total stop. Take some time to cool down after your workout. It could be a light stretch, a slow walk, a few minutes of deep breathing or light meditation or anything that helps you cool down. Take just a few more minutes for you at the end of your workout to wind your body down and help bring your body and mind to stillness, if even just for a moment.
Michelle Murdolo, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist working to guide patients through their bariatric surgery and weight management journey. She comes from a background of eating disorders and disordered eating and emphasizes body positivity and health at every size.