Toolkit to Exercise When You Don’t Love to Exercise
Stop trying to exercise. “Stop trying” may sound like strange advice. If exercise feels like an impossible, torturous task, the best approach might be to take it off the table completely.
The more you push against your own resistance, the more that resistance is likely to grow. Conversely, if you stop telling yourself you “should” exercise, you might discover you’re more likely to do it.
Aim for “movement” rather than “exercise.” People often assume they have to go straight into training for a marathon or lifting heavy weights, but in order to get the benefit of movement, you don’t have to train. You can just move.
And if you’re wondering how you’ll find big blocks of time to exercise—or even move? You don’t necessarily need to schedule time to exercise. Your movement could just be a pile of mini actions that add up over the day.
Those “mini actions” could be anything: walking to the office coffee machine; parking the car at a distance or gardening; goofing around with your kids.
Embrace the “everything counts” philosophy.
Get this: Just thinking that your daily activities “count” towards your fitness goals can make a difference.
One study found that if we believe our daily activities (like housework) count as exercise, the physiological benefit of those activities is enhanced.
84 female room attendants working in seven different hotels were measured on physiological health variables affected by exercise. Those in the informed condition were told that the work they do (cleaning hotel rooms) is a good exercise and satisfies the Surgeon General’s recommendations for an active lifestyle. Examples of how their work was exercise were provided. Subjects in the control group were not given this information. Although actual behavior did not change, 4 weeks after the intervention, the informed group perceived themselves to be getting significantly more exercise than before. As a result, compared with the control group, they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index. These results support the hypothesis that exercise affects health in part or in whole via the placebo effect.
Do Less. To reap the benefits of movement, you might need less than you think.
According to the WHO, Physical Activity Guidelines, adults should aim to get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week (or 22 to 43 minutes a day). Time-crunched folks can also meet the guidelines by doing 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week. But exercise isn’t all-or-nothing: Everything counts.
Try stuff. If you do want to move more—and ideally, find something you like, there’s no getting around it: You’ll have to give some things a try.
That may mean doing some stuff you might not like. Fortunately, there are ways to make the experimentation process more fun. Apply the 10 minute rule. Give yourself permission to try just 10 minutes of something. If you don’t like it, you can stop. This low-pressure approach makes it easier to try new things: Get in the pool with your kids for just 10 minutes and see how it goes. Try 10 minutes of an online Zumba class or a yoga video on YouTube.
Adjust your expectations. Fitness culture has exploded. This can be a good thing when it encourages people to get active and try new things, but it can also be very harmful.
Instagram influencers show that you have to go full BEAST MODE. Plus, your efforts should somehow result in six-pack abs irrespective of your age, gender, and lifestyle. FACEPALM. Let’s take the expectations down a notch. Truth is, movement doesn’t require anything fancy, or have to yield some magical transformation overnight. By adjusting your expectations around exercise, you can make the whole thing less of an ordeal… maybe even more fun.
Try to be kind and encouraging, and give yourself a gold star for your efforts, no matter how small. Maybe even write a friendly note for yourself. Sounds cheesy, but it works.
September 18, 2022