The Secret to Loving Exercise: Pleasure, Not Pain

The Secret to Loving Exercise: Pleasure, Not Pain

Exercise slims your hips, flattens your belly, boosts your spirits and—according to a recent study that had us cheering loudly -- packs a longevity bonus as powerful as drugs for people living with heart disease, diabetes or the aftermath of a stroke. That’s a lot of amazing benefits from physical activity.

So if you’re among the 80 percent of Americans searching for the motivation to get fit or stay active, we’ve got the secret: Tell your “inner gym teacher” to take a hike!

That’s right. Stop believing exercise means “no pain, no gain” uses up lots of time, is exhausting, or will bore you to tears. Those exercise myths keep way too many people on the couch. The truth: Small amounts of easy, enjoyable activity are best for revving up your energy level and boosting your mood. In fact, by slashing stress and increasing levels of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin, one workout (strolling around the block) can help you feel great for a whopping 12 hours!

Related: More Health Benefits of Exercise

Its no wonder that “enjoyment”, “fun” and “happiness” are top reasons regular exercisers stick with it. A report from the University of New Hampshire even found that people who remembered something pleasant about a past exercise session worked out 20-60 percent more often than folks who remembered the negatives. If you haven’t found your own exercise groove yet due to discomfort, tiredness, lack of time, or just feeling too out-of-shape or uncoordinated to get out there, these easy, fun strategies will get and keep you moving—because they feel so good.

If you’re turned off by: Wasting time driving to the gym, changing clothes, a shower afterward… Try: Walking, the no-fuss routine 
Save time with workouts you can do right now without getting into your car, pulling on special clothes, or having to shower off afterward. Dr. Mike hops on his office treadmill for brief strolls whenever he has a few minutes. Do the same at home by taking a quick walk in your neighborhood or by marching in place during TV commercials. At work schedule a couple of daily 10- to 15-minute walks; then increase to 30 minutes a day. Two 15-minute strolls deliver benefits comparable to a longer walk. You see improvements in better circulation and blood pressure.

If you’re turned off by: Solitude… Try: Enlisting a friend
Walk with a friend—at home and/or at work—if being solitary is an exercise turn-off for you. Success and exercise enjoyment rates soar when you buddy-up. You get companionship, accountability and may even burn more calories!

And then there are the benefits of walking with a dog. Besides boosting the enjoyment of your average walk, dog owners are 20 percent less likely to be obese than non-dog owners. But wear a pedometer, so you’ll walk in circles while your dog stops. The average hour-long dog walk delivers a non-pedometer wearer only about 8 minutes of walking; by wearing a pedometer, you’ll get close to 50 minutes!

If you’re turned off by: Boot-camp-style work-outs or a boring gym routine… Try: Dancing or playing outside
Love moving to music? You’ll burn lots of calories and reap benefits like a healthier heart and protection against dementia. Hula-hoop, shimmy and shake to your favorite tunes out back at home or take an outdoor dance exercise class like Zumba. You can also toss a Frisbee, work in the garden…they all burn calories, raise your heart rate, and count as exercise in a fresh air environment.

If you’re turned-off by: Feeling ache-y afterwards…Try: Backing off a little
Over-doing exercise is a big reason exercise newbies quit…so keep in mind that a comfortably-paced routine is better for boosting energy and mood. If you’re an experienced exerciser who’s traded up to a too-tough routine, here’s news: Overtraining may boost inflammation in ways that interfere with muscle-building benefits. Dial down the intensity of your routine a little so that you can’t wait to do it again.

Related: Don’t Fall Too Hard for Extreme Workouts 

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