How to Like Exercise

How to Like Exercise

When people think of exercise, they conjure up images of gym teachers, sport coaches, military instructors or sadistic personal trainers with clipboards. Speaking from experience, often the school Physical Education was embarrassing for the unfit and the military and some martial arts schools doled out the push ups and stress positions on a regular basis. So, one’s mind could easily associate exercise to pain and humiliation.

Then, there were the early rewards of exercise and sports. Teachers, parents and student peers frequently praised the school athletes, especially winning athletes. Athletics brought prestige to schools, parents and other students.

The problem with early exercise experiences, like high school, is that:

1. Some young people, associated exercise with pain, rejection (last picked for sports) and humiliation.

2. The high school athletes were often motivated by competition and external praise. When school was over, they lost motivation to exercise.

Behavioral psychologist and author of No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, Michelle Segar, discovered that people who enjoy an activity are more likely to stick with it than people who exercise “because they have to” or want to lose weight.

Segar compared exercisers who focused on weight-loss and cosmetics (“body shapers”) with exercisers who just exercised for fun (“non-body shapers”). She found that the non-body shapers exercised more frequently and longer and showed greater progress than the body shapers. Furthermore, when offered candy after exercise, the non-body shapers refused candy rewards, whereas the body shapers ate more candy. When interviewed afterwards, the body shapers felt that they deserved more candy for their effort.

Moral of the story: Find something that you like to do and exercise for the fun of it, rather than counting crunches and burning calories. This means exercise in a good environment with good company. Then exercise becomes its own reward and not bitter medicine.