For many people, an exercise routine is one of the most challenging healthy habits to establish and maintain. Along with eating healthful, nutritious foods, getting enough sleep and managing stress, exercise is one of the most important lifestyle changes anyone can make, yet, a lot of people still struggle to sustain lasting change.
The notion of exercise is often viewed as a chore, an activity that you have to do to be healthy, live longer or lose weight, rather than something you want to do. However, when you alter the way to think about exercise, it can be fun, make you feel great, and be something you actually look forward to. This can done when you exchange ‘exercise’ with ‘play.’
Playing is for kids
I’m sure you can call to mind how when you were a kid, you couldn’t wait to get outdoors to play! When I was a kid, I loved going to park to play with my friends. My favorite activity was the swings. I remember how I could swing for what felt like hours, always attempting to swing so high that I’d go over the top! When you’re a kid, you give much thought what you should do. To a kid, being active is fun!
There actually are people out there who are really passionate about working out. To them, there is nothing more invigorating than going for a five mile run, lifting weights or doing a bunch of squats. Indeed, I am not one of those people. My idea of lifting is lifting a cup of tea to my lips (I need this on a t-shirt), yet I am committed to working movement into each day in ways that are fun and I can look forward to.
Yet, for most people, exercise sucks. Despite fully knowing it’s health benefits, exercise continues to be an arduous, tedious or even painful experience, and just one more dreaded task to fit into an already jam-packed day. Even if there is enough time, the lure of the couch is much stronger than the call of the treadmill.
Play more, exercise less
We continue to procrastinate when it comes to exercise, even when we know that we’ll feel great afterwards. When you don’t enjoy exercise, you are very unlikely to stick to it for any length of time. We make excuses and put if off again and again. So, what is the solution?
When you turn exercise into play, you make getting moving fun again. You may not typically think of playing with your children as an opportunity for 'exercise,' but it can be as long as it gets you moving. It’s about having a playful, 'everything counts' mindset.
Play doesn’t have to be something you schedule for the same time each day, nor does it have to be done at the gym or require special equipment. Give yourself play breaks throughout the day, taking a 15 minute play break, or perhaps make it a reward at the end of the work day. Alternatively, start your day off playfully by finding creative ways to release your inhibitions.
Not sure you remember how to play? Try thinking about the 100 pull ups you’ve been putting off, and whether that sounds like fun. Now think about about some of these more playful alternatives:
Play outdoors with your kids, challenging them to races, climbing trees, or water balloon fights. If you don’t have kids, borrow your nieces and nephews for a day!
Take your dog for walks more frequently. It’s not only good for you, but your dog will love you more!
Get involved in team sports with colleagues, neighbors or church groups.
Sign up for activities at your local community center, such as self-defense classes, pilates or tai chi.
Head off to the batting cages during your lunch break and let off some steam at the same time!
Dance your heart out to your favorite music, but make sure no one is watching!
Go for a hike with your significant other, or group of friends.
Take up a new hobby, like fencing, trampolining or bellydancing.
If possible, ride your bike to work instead or driving or public transport.
Maybe, at least for some of you, these ideas sound like fun! Everyone has a different idea of what fun is, but whatever is fun to you, go out and do it! Don’t attempt to count the minutes, it’s just play. Be free, be spontaneous, and make it the most fun you’ve had all day!