What does exercise mean to you?
Your answer to this question will determine whether exercise is a part of your daily life, or not.
Do you see exercise as a chore or as something you enjoy?
If you’ve ever started an exercise routine with the best of intentions, only to see that routine wither and die, there’s a perfectly good reason for that.
It has to do with WHY you exercise.
Take a moment to think of all the reasons you exercise.
In her book No Sweat, Michelle Segar says that if you are like most people, you are exercising for all the wrong reasons.
Most people want to lose weight, have a better body, better health, live longer, lower their cholesterol or reduce their risk of chronic disease. All good things to strive for, but THE WRONG REASONS to exercise.
None of these reasons motivate us over the long term. They’re definitely benefits of being active, but they aren’t enough to get us off the couch.
That’s because on a day to day basis, exercising for negative reasons (I’m not happy with my body), or to avoid bad things (getting ill or sick), are just not good motivators.
If you are going to make exercise a sustainable part of your lifestyle, you need to do it for the RIGHT reasons.
In Segar’s study, 75% of people named weight loss or better health as their top reasons for exercising, while 25% exercised to feel more centred, reduce their current level of stress, or create a sense of well-being.
Those that did it for weight loss or better health, exercised 32% less than those with goals focused on feeling better.
Motivation vs. Willpower
We’re wired for immediate gratification over long-term results.
We believe we can talk ourselves into better habits, but the reality is we’re motivated to make choices and do things that feel good and avoid things that don’t.
So when we tell ourselves, “I have to go to the gym to lose weight”, we’re telling ourselves we need to do something that won’t benefit us until later. This sets our mind at war with our body, which really wants to do whatever feels good, right now.
As a result, exercise has to compete with everything else that feels better or more urgent right now (laying in bed, watching Netflix, playing with the kids, finishing that work project, getting through e-mails, or having lunch).
When something easier or more immediately satisfying comes up against your wrong reason for exercising (delayed benefits), exercise becomes a chore and a matter of willpower.
Our willpower may win a few battles over the short term, but it always loses the war.
Exercise To Feel Better, Now.
We need to rethink our reasons for exercising.
When was the last time you truly enjoyed moving? What were you doing?
You were probably doing something just for the fun of it. Were you outside gardening or raking leaves? Dancing? Walking or biking? Playing a sport you love?
If you were doing one of those things, chances are you might’ve got a sweat on, but you weren’t thinking of it as exercise, you were simply enjoying moving for the fun of it.
If you said being at the gym, it’s likely because you really enjoy challenging yourself in spin class, moving to the beat in Zumba, or you love the burn of that last dumbbell rep. Or maybe you just like how your skin glows and your body feels right after your work out.
If you’re going to the gym for those reasons, fitness isn’t a chore. It’s something you enjoy and makes you feel great.
Research shows that just a few minutes of exercise can boost our mood. Have you noticed that only moments after you start walking, step on the tennis court, or get partway around your first lap on the ice rink, you find yourself feeling happier?
Ten to fifteen minutes can leave you feeling better for hours. Forty-Five minutes will have you feeling better all day and sleeping better at night. You’ll find yourself more patient with your kids, more outgoing with customers and clients. Happier and more expressive with your partner.
The day itself actually IS brighter because you are more present everyone, and aware of everything around you.
Can you say the same on days when you don’t exercise?
Moving For Mental Health
For those suffering from mental health problems such as depression, exercise has been shown to be as effective as antidepressant medications. In Behavioural Activation Therapy, getting people doing things has been shown to be as effective as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for depression.
It turns out, depression may be less a problem with how we are thinking and feeling, and more about the fact that we’ve stopped doing things that make us feel good and bring us joy.
Whether you are feeling depressed or not, the trick is to start moving for the right reasons. Once you start moving, it’s easier to keep moving because MOVING JUST FEELS GOOD!
So rather than waiting to feel in the mood for exercise, you need to get up with just one purpose: to feel better. Not for some time in the future. For right now.
Your body, your mind, your friends, your family, your co-workers and your community will all benefit, today.