How To Be Healthier When You Don’t Like Exercise
Couple on a walk in autumn nature.
A few years ago, I was introduced to one of my client’s friends a few years ago. The introduction included my job title as a personal trainer. My client’s friend, Joe, almost immediately confessed, “I hate to exercise, so don’t even ask me to.” This was odd, given we were in a restaurant and my client, and I were having lunch. I replied, “that’s ok. Exercise is an acquired taste”.
People look at you like the fitness police whenever you are a personal trainer. It didn’t matter that I was meeting them outside the gym; often, their immediate reaction are confessions about their current fitness. “I’ve been meaning to lose 15 pounds”, “I have been so busy at work that I haven’t had time to go to the gym,” and “I don’t like the gym, so I don’t exercise.” Of course, that are just a few excuses not to exercise.
Meanwhile, I’m not going to lie; I love to exercise. I’m just like anyone, and sometimes it is challenging to motivate myself. However, once I get my workout shoes on, it feels like there is no going back. HA, I understand why others don’t love something like I do. Believe me; I have heard multiple reasons why a person may find fitness undesirable. For example:
Discomfort: when someone starts their fitness journey, it can be uncomfortable; you may experience shortness of breathing and dislike sweating. Heavier people often feel embarrassed or ashamed and feel out of place in a gym.Pain: Certain types of movement can exacerbate general muscle tightness, chronic pain, past injuries, and current health issues.Fear of Failure: You may feel pressure to be immediately good at exercise when you walk into the gym. Or perhaps, it might seem not very safe, and attempting to reach your goal seems impossible. Procrastination: This is the biggest reason people fail at exercise! It is very tempting to put off things that are difficult. In fact, many people keep procrastinating for months, even years and never really ever start exercising.
What Are Some Strategies You Can Use
If you don’t want to exercise don’t do it. Of course, exercise is good for you. However, you can choose how to spend your time. I met a guy who hated the idea of exercising. So, we ran an experiment, and I told him to limit any kind of movement for a few days. In fact, I suggested laying around as much as possible and see if he preferred it. Within a few days he felt crappy and realized he wanted to move around a bit.
Next, we discussed some ideas of ways he wanted to move. He started taking short walks, felt more energy, and enjoyed the movement. The idea is to find ways he found activities he enjoyed. He discovered he craved action more than he realized. We also focused on getting more sleep, meditating, and focusing on nutrition. Later, he also decided he always wanted to try kayaking, and he enjoyed that a great deal. Any kind of movement is good.
Let me say that again, any kind of movement is good. Focusing on movement instead of exercising might be more to your liking. Don’t worry about scheduling time to hit the gym; add actions to your day. For example, get a desk that moves up and down and spend more time standing at your desk. Park further away from your destinations like work and grocery stores. Walk your dog, play with kids, and do something around the house like empty the dishwasher or mow the lawn. Dance! All this movement adds up over a day, has less stress and more accessible.
I had a client who worked from home and sat at a desk all day. We discussed freeing up her weekends from doing chores to getting them done during the week. She would take small breaks and do household chores throughout her day. She began adding more movement like pacing back and forth when brushing her teeth. She also began to focus more on cooking from home. She became more active by moving around her kitchen, reaching and bending for cooking utensils, pots, and pans, putting her dishes in the dishwasher as she used them, and chopping and hitting the grocery store.
My client and her husband loved beer, so now that their weekends were free, they started to do brewery tours. They also decided to do renovations around their house, like painting and decided to be more minimalist, so they started going through their home on weekends and getting rid of things.
Adopt the philosophy all movement is good movement. Consider all your daily routines and pat yourself on the back for contributing to your health. Studies have found that if we have our mindset to only view “exercise” as the only thing beneficial to our health, we tend to beat ourselves up over it. Inevitably depression and negative thinking take over. However, if we focus on other factors like movement, sleep, nutrition – all the other things that are good for us, mood and mindset dramatically improve, so give yourself credit when credit is due.
To reap the benefits of movement, start small and build up. According to the CDC, adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of muscle strengthening activity each week. Break up the exercises into small segments. For example, take a brisk walk 30 minutes a day; do push-ups with your hands on the countertop every time you go to the bathroom. Do bodyweight exercises at your desk several times a week like squats, crunches, planks, arm circles, etc. Throw in a strength training session, and you are golden.
Adjust your attitude. We live in fitness culture, and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get active. There is this idea we have to hit the gym and go “beast mode.” By adjusting your expectations, exercising can be more enjoyable. Don’t beat yourself up and practice more self-compassion if you make it to the gym twice a week and enjoy moderate exercise – good for you. Don’t attempt hardcore workouts if you are out of shape or an older adult- -this is how injuries happen. Concentrate on form and take your time.
In this fitness culture, we tend to focus on an all-or-nothing attitude. Stop beating yourself up and concentrate on what you prefer to do. Research has shown that being kind and supportive to yourself is positively correlated with health-promoting behaviors. If you want to focus on more movement, getting more rest, and eating healthy, that is great. Resist judging yourself and practice more self-compassion.