Many people have a love-hate relationship with exercise. They view exercise as a kind of penance for a bad diet or an unhealthy lifestyle, and the mere thought of exercise invokes feelings of shame, fear, and self-judgment. It’s why so many people feel the need to hit the gym after the holiday season, and why more than 90% of those people quit after only three months! 

It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s possible to enjoy exercise without thinking about weight, food, or calories.

Get Rid of the “Exercise is Punishment” Mentality

The first thing you need to do is change your focus from exercise to physical activity. The word exercise brings up images of planned, structured, and repetitive bodily movements, whereas physical activity is about moving the body. Which one would you rather be doing?

There’s a reason why the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has physical activity guidelines rather than exercise guidelines. It’s because research suggests exercise may not be enough to offset the adverse effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Most people, including those who go to the gym every day, need to move more.

When you are no longer focused on calories, little things like parking farther away from the entrance or taking the stairs become more enjoyable. Every minute you spend on such activities counts towards the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week, and you don’t need to do any extra work to figure out how many calories it is.

Make Physical Activity Fun

Not everyone enjoys exercise, in the strict sense, but almost everyone can find a physical activity that makes them feel good. Whether it’s walking the dog or a bike ride with the kids, you should choose something rewarding and enjoyable enough for you to want to do it again!

Not sure where to start? Think of something you used to enjoy as a child and then try it. See how you feel about it as an adult.

Find Something You Look Forward To

The benefits of physical activity go far beyond weight management. So try to find a benefit that has nothing to do with losing weight. You can focus on getting stronger, relieving stress, better sleep, flexibility, endurance, or simply seeing what your body is capable of. This approach makes it a whole lot easier (and fun) to stay motivated when the pounds aren’t coming off as fast as you’d like.  

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