Exercise – punishment or play?

One of the themes to come out of Fitex, the New Zealand fitness conference, this year was around making exercise fun, focusing on exercise as play and finding that motivation beyond health – moving, exercising or taking part in activities for enjoyment and connection.

A lot of us see exercise as punishment – we think need to do something to ‘make up’ for that bottle of wine, burger or chocolate bar.  We see exercise as that thing we ‘should’ do, or ‘have to’ do.  It’s tiring, uncomfortable and hard.

Going to the gym is often associated with ‘working out’. If many of us aren’t too enthused about working to start with, then that very idea of ‘working out’ will also have negative connotations. If this is how we perceive it, it’s no wonder we find sticking to it hard.

So to change this we need a change in mindset around exercise, movement and activity.  We need to find that thing that we consider fun, and in doing so, suddenly it’s not ‘work’ anymore.  If we shift the focus from doing what we think we ‘should’ do to be healthy and start thinking about the activities we love to do for their own sake, we take the chore away from it and the whole thing suddenly becomes easier.

Think about the activities you like to do – whether it’s dancing in the kitchen with your kids, going for a walk with family and friends, rollerblading, rockclimbing or road cycling, if you think it’s fun it’s time to add it back into your routine if you don’t already do it regularly.

Remember that Friends episode, the One Where Phoebe Runs? Phoebe runs with flapping arms and legs because it’s more fun and reminds her of when she would run so fast as a kid it felt like her legs were going to fall off but Rachel finds it embarrassing. In the end, Rachel tries Phoebe’s running style and feels so free and great doing it that she doesn’t care people are staring, because it’s fun.  I’m not saying we should all run like Phoebe, but finding how we can make exercise, movement and activity fun will make it so much easier to stick to.


rachel running