How to make exercise fun and enjoyable (or how to hate it but do it anyway!)

bored woman

We all know we should exercise. Most of us know that we should probably exercise more. We know that our health, both physical and mental, would be better if we exercised more.But many of us struggle to enjoy exercise.

This is borne out by this observation from the The UK NHS:

8 out of 10 people think they exercise enough, but in reality only 3 out of 10 actually do.

Many people fool themselves that they are doing more than they think, because they hate exercise so much.

Meme, who is a registered dietitian nutritionist, says: “Exercise gives me energy. Exercise helps me relieve stress. Exercise helps me sleep better. Exercise makes me feel strong. Exercise helps me feel confident in this one and only body I’ve been gifted with. The list goes on.” via How to Enjoy Exercise – Living Well Kitchen

So the big questions is: if I hate exercise, how can I make it fun and enjoyable?

There are basically two approaches to this:

  1. I hate exercise. I’m always going to hate it, but I’m going to do it.
  2. I am going to learn to love exercise.

Let’s look at the first approach. I’ll look at the second approach in other articles.

Doing regular exercise even though you hate it

I was talking to a friend in her sixties, who told me she hates exercise. She knows she should do it but hates it. She said it almost as though that settled the matter. She didn’t need to take any, because she hated it.

Now that approach may be OK for not reading Tolstoy or not eating bananas, but it’s really not OK when it comes to exercise.

But what would she have said to me if I’d said: “I hate cleaning my teeth, so I don’t do it.”

I think she would have been shocked. She would have thought that it didn’t matter if I hated it, I still absolutely needed to clean my teeth to avoid bad breathe and to prevent dental caries. She might have even told me that.

And, of course, she would have been right.

So, you could treat exercise as a necessary evil. It is something you need to do to keep your body and mind toned and strong.

I find the best way of dealing with unpleasant things that I need to do is to work out how much the time is as a proportion of my life.

For example, I’m in my seventies, so I’m going to assume for this calculation that I will live to be 90.

90 years = 47,304,000 Minutes

You can see what a small part of my life the current 30 minute workout would be (I’m not going to give you some impossible fraction here!)

You may want to experiment to find the type of exercise you hate the least! But just accept that you will always hate it, but that you will do it. You will focus on the results you will achieve rather than the time you spend doing the exercise. If you don’t want to go to the gym, try this huge range of highly-rated home workout videos. Or try exercise snacking instead.

But don’t make the goal of exercise to lose weight. I totally agree with Michelle Segar. She has written the highly popular book “No Sweat.” She says:

“If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Exercising for the primary goal of losing weight will not help most people stick with exercise over time. It may get you to start, but it most likely sets you up to exercise in ways that you don’t like. As a result, you’ll stop once you get tired of forcing yourself to adhere to this regimen and feel like a failure – again. Not only do you not achieve your weight-loss goal, but you also miss out on the multitude of benefits of being active.”

And if you hate exercise, don’t believe it’s OK to reward yourself with a chocolate bar or a doughnut because of al the calories you’ve just used up exercising.

I disagree with Maria Brilaki, who says:

“If you have to force yourself to do it, then there is a 90% chance that you are doing it wrong and you will never stick to exercise.”

I think this is wrong, because some people are never going to enjoy any form of exercise. But (like cleaning your teeth) that doesn’t mean you don’t do it.

Stop chasing that perennial question of how to enjoy exercise when you hate it, and just do it.

This is the feel the hate and do it anyway approach to exercise!