Most of us know that exercises are good for our body and we must do them if we want to be healthy. Unfortunately this mentality of “must” makes exercise seem like a burden in our life, not something we can enjoy. If you think of exercise as some sort of chore, even if you workout, your mind won’t be there fully and you will workout less efficiently. As a consequence, you won’t get the result you want and you will be further discouraged. Eventually you will stop working out entirely. This is not good; we really need to enjoy whatever we are doing.
Moreover, a recent Cornell study found that if you enjoy exercises, you eat less after the workout. It makes sense, since if you do exercises as something you need to do, the workout will actually be a stress factor. Many people eat more when they get stressed. If you enjoy things you are doing, whatever it is, you lower your stress level, and you don’t need to eat food to lower your stress.
In fact, a study done at University of Stavanger shows that working out could make you fat if you don’t enjoy it! They found that workouts make people with weight problems so stressed, the level of cortisol (stress hormone) is significantly raised while working out and stays high afterward the workout. As a result, these people actually gained weight! Since the study was done with a small sample of people, the conclusion may not be as strong as I stated here, but we still need to consider the stress level and its effect when we design our workout.
So what can we do? First, we need to find some exercises which you can enjoy. Let’s take walking. Some people love nature, and love to walk in nature. If you are one of them, find a place where you can find more trees and flowers. If you are lucky, you may be able to find a wooded walk path near your home. Even a public garden in a city is a good place to walk. You can walk around several times. If you get bored, you can walk in the other direction, which makes for quite a different view.
If you love shopping, you can go to a mall. Many mega malls are actually good places to walk around. If it is winter, you don’t need to worry about snow, and if it is hot, they are air conditioned.
The second thing we can do is find something we like while working out. Although I personally like to concentrate on the workout, for a beginner, if you do something you like while working out, it help you to keep going. Your brain won’t be able to tell what is causing the pleasure and eventually the workout itself will become something enjoyable. Yes, it is some sort of Pavlov’s dog mechanism!
For example, many gyms provide a TV for each cardio machine. If you like a certain TV program, watch it while walking on a treadmill. You can listen to music while walking or even talk with your friend on a phone while walking outside, though I prefer to stay on a treadmill as these activities may increase the chance of traffic accidents.
Third, give yourself a reward at the end of each workout. Usually sweet fruit such as a strawberry or apple will do, but if you love chocolate, you can have a piece of dark chocolate. Don’t eat something expensive or something which takes time to make. Many men love to take a steam bath. They go to a gym and work out so that they can use the steam bath at the end of the workout.
Fourth, workout with your friends. Once in a while, talking with a real human being is a good thing. Forget texting and just meet with your friend and walk! Human beings are social animals, so being with someone else is pleasurable. Doing something with your friend is so much more fun than doing it alone. Workout with your friend.
Fifth, enjoy the sensation from after the workout. Don’t say “oh, I made it. I managed to walk 4 miles!” but say “how nice it is to relax after the workout!” The mental setting makes a big difference in the stress level. Even while you are working out, if you think “two more miles to go” or “I already walked two miles,” there will be a big difference. The former stresses you out, and the latter encourages you. Basically, you want to set your mentality to pleasure-seeking rather than pain-seeking.
In any case, enjoy whatever you are doing. It is for your health. If you are healthy, you can enjoy your life more and you will be happier.
Is it fun or exercise? The framing of physical activity biases subsequent snacking. Marketing Letters, 2014
Weight Reduction in Obese Correlates with Low Morning Cortisol Increase. Journal of Exercise Physiology, Volume 17, issue 3, June, 2014
Exercise can alter cortisol responses in obese subjects. Journal of Exercise Physiology Online, 01/2014