Making workouts feel good, not just “good for you.”
Sometimes life feels like a “you can only keep three” challenge: a successful job, happy relationship, perfect parent, tidy home, good night’s sleep, regular exercise, and more. We all have days (or weeks) when we feel too busy, tired, or stressed to keep up with a wellness routine.
But what could help is to make exercise a more enjoyable part of your routine rather than another chore on your list. Try these science-backed ideas to shake up your wellness approach and have more fun being active.
Make it social
Promising to work out feels great, but it can be tough to keep that pledge when you’re tired and relaxing sounds so much more inviting. If you know a workout buddy is counting on you, it might be easier to show up. Exercising with others can help with accountability and be an enjoyable experience in its own right.
The CDC recommends working out with a partner to feel more motivated, adventurous, and consistent about your exercise habits. Joining a group of people in a similar situation to yours, such as a workout group for moms, can be motivational and a way to find camaraderie with other people who understand what you’re going through in your life.
Here are some ideas to get started:
- Join a community sports team.
- Find a social version of a solo sport you like, such as a runners’ club.
- Work out with a friend in your neighborhood or at work for accountability and social connection.
Think like a kid
When you were little, chances are it was easier to be active. You had more free time to play and explore, and your parents may have signed you up for fun activities that kept your body moving. Turning to childhood memories can rekindle a sense of why it feels good to be active. Versions of the games and activities you loved when you were little can be excellent workout choices now. Here are some ideas to get you moving and connect with your “inner kid.”
- Visit the playground. Many commercial swings can support a 250-pound person, meaning some adults may be able to take a turn. Some playgrounds also offer adult equipment or additional facilities like a tennis court where adults can play.
- Sign up for classes. Did you love dance classes or martial arts as a kid? Many studios offer classes for grown-ups, too.
- Get out in the neighborhood. Roller skating, biking, or shooting hoops in the driveway are fun ways to let off steam and exercise. Better yet, if you have kids, it’s a great way to encourage active family bonding.
- Get a fresh perspective. Need a quick burst of activity? Spinning, jumping, or hanging upside down were fun ways to get your blood moving as a kid, and they work just as well now.
Set your own pace
Are you slogging through workouts when you’re itching to move on to the next part of your day? Or maybe you’re sick of the constant messaging to “push yourself” when your energy is already low. Take a moment to reset your pace, whether that means slowing down or getting a quick fix that won’t drag out your day.
Exercise can come with a bad rap for an overly harsh “no pain, no gain” mentality. The truth is, you can still get plenty of benefits from a more gentle approach.
A recent study in the International Journal of Obesity found that walking at your preferred pace in an environment you like offers similar health benefits to walking on a treadmill at a prescribed speed. Walking in nature can help lower stress hormones and improve mental and physical health. So if you don’t like the gym, skip it! After all, slow and steady wins the race.
On the other hand, maybe your preference is to get the most benefit from a workout in the least amount of time. Lack of time is one of the top reasons people don’t get active, so a quick fix might be the solution you need. If you prefer a “short and sweet” approach — and you’re willing to push yourself — one minute of intense exercise in a 10-minute workout can offer benefits like improved insulin resistance and increased fitness.
Exercising should be a convenient fit for your lifestyle. Whether taking a relaxing stroll, practicing yoga after work, or squeezing in a super-quick workout that still offers powerful results, being active will become more enjoyable if it happens at your own pace.
Make exercise fun
You’ll have difficulty sticking to a program if you find your workouts boring. What feels fun for one person may not be enjoyable for another, but once you find your favorite style, working out can change from a “have-to” to a “get-to” item on your list. Here are some ideas to help you spice things up a bit.
- Try temptation bundling. Temptation bundling means pairing something you already find indulgent and fun with another activity (e.g., working out). Saving a guilty-pleasure TV show for exercise time can make you more eager to get to the gym. Or, treat yourself to a luxurious soak after you crush a workout.
- Find ways to play. Chase your partner with a water gun, give your kids piggyback rides, practice cartwheels, or do some running yourself when you play catch with your dog. One great reason to stay active is to have the energy to play with your loved ones, so don’t wait to build these activities into your life.
- Seek out something beautiful. Finding a beautiful or exciting destination to exercise in can make it a more rewarding experience. Try hiking to a great sunset spot or waterfall, kayaking on a serene lake, or walking to the most remarkable sightseeing attractions in your city.
- Try something new. Aerial silk yoga class, indoor rock climbing, or fencing are unique fitness experiences that you may find you enjoy. These activities can also act as a great conversation starter or help you discover muscles you never knew you had.
Exercise can be enjoyable — especially when you find the right activity
There are tons of ways to be active. Test out some of the ideas on this list to see what may just be the right fit. When you feel energized after your workouts or start looking forward to carving out some time for activity in your day, you know you’ve found the best exercise routine for you.