Exercise seems to be the answer to absolutely everything. From boosting your well-being to improving your mood, exercise is quick, effective and easy to include. So why do so many people avoid exercising regularly? The key seems to be in ensuring that you actually enjoy exercise.
Most people see exercise as a chore, something that has to be done. The problem is, if you treat exercise as a chore that is uncomfortable, you train your brain to not want to do it. So as soon as an excuse pops up to drop something, exercise is the first thing to do.
We love exercise, and all the health benefits it bestows upon us, so we thought we would have a look at exercise and how to make it more enjoyable.
What Counts as Exercise
Many people only think of exercise as slogging it out in the gym or running 10 miles a day. But exercise doesn't have to be that extreme!
Exercise can be anything that works your muscles and increases your heart rate to compensate for the work that you're doing. A common definition is that exercise is activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness'. When you think about it, that covers a lot more than just the gym!
Some is considered low intensity, such as walking, gentle yoga or swimming slowly. Other exercise is more intense, such as weight-lifting or any kind of racing.
Health Benefits of Exercise
The benefits of exercise seem to be never-ending. Some of them include:
- Reduced risk of diabetes
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Reduced risk of multiple types of cancer including colon
- Reduced risk of death in general
- Improved self esteem
- Improved mood
- Improved sleep quality
- Reduced stress
- Reduced risk of depression
- Reduced risk of dementia
- Reduced risk of osteoporosis
- Reduced risk of obesity and associated complications
All of that for just a few hours per week of your time and effort? Seems pretty good!
How does exercise offer all of these benefits? It's to do with how it impacts your body, and your life, as well. Exercise can increase your muscle mass, improve circulation and oxygen capacity, and change the levels of your neurotransmitters and stress hormones.
It also has to do with what impact exercise has on your life and your choices. If you exercise, you're also more likely to make other healthier choices, such as consuming healthier foods more often, or socializing in a hobby based environment.
How Much Should We Move
So it makes sense that we need to get moving. But how much is enough? It really depends on your aim with exercise.
Some health benefits occur with just a few hours a week of low intensity movement, such as walking. Some require a little more effort and intensity.
A common target to aim for is taking an average of 10,000 steps per day. This encourages you to become more active overall, increasing incidental movement, as well as deliberate activity. Many wear trackers or have pedometers on their smart phones that track steps per day automatically.
Ideally, for best physical health, you'll incorporate a mix of strength, cardiovascular and flexibility related exercises a few times per week. Some government bodies recommend aiming for 150 minutes of exercise per week, or 30 minutes completed 5 times per week, which is a very achievable amount if you vary your exercise.
It's also important to have regular rest periods. After all, your muscles aren't built while you are training—they are actually built during periods of rest and repair. So make sure you incorporate 1-2 days per week when you have a bit of a break from the more intense forms of exercise.
Fun Activities to Try
So what sorts of exercise can be fun? It really depends on what you enjoy personally. Some people love the challenge of the gym and hitting new personal bests, whereas others hate it. With that in mind, here are a few ideas of what you might like to try out:
- Dancing – ballroom, latin, street latin, tap, jazz, hip-hop and pole dancing are common options
- Extreme sports – including rock climbing, wrestling, skiing, BMX biking, trapeze and surfing
- Martial arts – there are dozens to choose from, including MMA, taekwondo, karate, jiu jitsu, Muay Thai and judo
- Mind-body exercise – including yoga, tai chi and qi gong
Many activities, such as those listed above, will be available to you locally, and most will offer trial classes or weeks for you to try it out for free, so you don't have to invest a huge amount before you figure out whether or not you enjoy it.
The only way to know for sure if you're going to enjoy an activity is if you try it out a few times. If you don't enjoy it, the worst you've lost is a few hours of your time. If you do, you've just found a fun new way to improve your health regularly!
Fun Incidental Movement
Exercise doesn't have to be scheduled in to be effective. In fact, some of the most fun movement choices are those that are spontaneous!
A common incidental movement for parents is running around and playing with children. By mimicking the motion of your little ones, you can do all sorts of movements, including body weight exercises and cardiovascular exercise, without the expectations of the gym. If you have no kids, use your nieces or nephews!
The workplace can be another place where it's easy to incorporate incidental exercise. Whether it's lifting objects, or walking between offices, or taking the stairs, there are plenty of ways to increase your overall movement. While it might not be the most fun option, many people prefer it to an hour-long workout every evening after work.
Just Start, and Enjoy
The simplest tip we can condense down to is to find something that you enjoy, and start it. If you love the way you move your body, you will be incorporating it as part of your weekly routine in no time—and you'll reap the benefits, too.