Picture the kid who hates vegetables, but loves ice cream. He holds his nose as he dutifully pokes one pea at a time onto his fork, chews with a grimace and chases the vegetables with copious amounts of water. After finally choking down all the peas, he triumphantly declares his vegetables gone and is rewarded with ice cream.
This perfectly describes the relationship many of us have with exercise. And we apply the same tired logic used to get us to eat vegetables to compel ourselves to exercise. We tell ourselves that we need to exercise because it is good for us and we don’t enjoy a single moment of it. We plow our way through it in order to get to the reward.
What if we could transform exercise from vegetables to ice cream? What if we could experience delight, satisfaction, and happiness during exercise itself? Would it make daily exercise something to look forward to instead of something to dread? Research says yes. In fact, studies have found that when people feel positive during their exercise, they gain more physical and mental health benefits from it. So, how do we fall in love with exercise?
One of the most important ways to make exercise joyful is to do an activity that we genuinely like. Some people love to heft weight, so weight training is an exercise that they enjoy. Others love music and find themselves swaying their hips in time to a beat. These people love to dance for exercise. Others relish the opportunity to see, feel, and smell fields, woods, and oceans. For these people walking, bicycling, or jogging outdoors is the ticket. Some enjoy the companionship of animals. Perhaps they can’t wait to saddle up their horse or watch their dog explore. These people can get their exercise with a horseback ride or by briskly walking their dog.
There is no reason for exercise to be drudgery. So, this fall engage in pleasurable activities. There is very likely some kind of exercise that is inherently fun and rewarding for everyone. What is universal is the importance of allowing ourselves the ability to express our movement in our own personally satisfying ways. From here, we typically gain additional sources of pleasure from the exercise itself. Our brains are stimulated in such a way that we automatically seek other connections, or reasons, for the pleasure we’re experiencing. In this way, over time, the actual movements of our body become direct sources of pleasure. From there, the sky is the limit, as we have learned to love the exercise itself!