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How To Learn to Love Exercise


Updated August 23, 2007

Exercise is critical for a long, healthy life. Exercise not only increases longevity, but it also helps us feel better now. As 60% of American adults are overweight, it seems that exercise is difficult for most of us. However, there are people out there, lots of them, who actually love exercise. They love to run, lift weights, and swim. Wouldn't it be a lot easier to exercise if you were one of them? How do you learn to love exercise? Read on.

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 30 minutes, at least twice a week

Here's How:

  1. Begin a Time Habit

    The single hardest thing about exercise is scheduling. Everything else seems to take priority. Exercise is viewed as a free time activity, and who has free time anymore? Before getting wrapped up in buying the right shoes and finding the right exercise routine, practice setting time aside.

    • Consistently reserve 30 minutes, at least 3 times a week, to get moving.
    • Don't allow yourself to use that time for anything else (see below).

  2. Follow your Bliss

    Here's your task: For 30 minutes, at least 3 times a week, think about exercise. Just sit somewhere and think.

    • Do not answer the phone.
    • Do not surf the Internet.
    • Do not write.
    • Do nothing but think about exercise.

    Think about what exercise you could be doing during this 30 minute period.

    • Could you be walking?
    • Marching in place in front of the TV?
    • Going to a gym?
    • Doing yoga at home?

    What feels right? Do this mental exercise for 3 weeks, or until you feel ready for the next step.

  3. Substitute with Real Exercise

    Now that you are used to thinking about exercise at least three times a week, begin substituting thinking with actual physical activity. Choose what feels right:

    • walking
    • going to the gym
    • stretching
    • another activity that gets your heart rate up and body moving

    You've overcome the biggest obstacle -- time. Now have fun experimenting with your style.

    • Do you like classes?
    • Do you like to work out at home?

    Don't worry about intensity or results. Just continue to establish the habit of exercising three times a week. Continue for another three weeks, or until you are ready for the next step.

  4. Set a Minimum

    Set a minimum number of times each week that you will exercise. Commit to yourself that you will NEVER drop below that minimum.

    If you are traveling or just incredibly busy, you can still honor your commitment through gentle stretching or quick walks sprinkled throughout the week.

    If you do this every week for the rest of your life, you will have more health and energy. Adhering to your minimum is the single most important action you can take. Sometimes you will exceed the minimum, sometimes you will have bad days when you just walk on the treadmill. All the is fine, just NEVER drop below the minimum.

  5. Change Your Goals

    Those "perfect" bodies in magazines are hard to obtain and harder to maintain. They take years to get and may not depict the healthy weight you should achieve. Exercise for health, energy and vitality. You will feel those benefits immediately.

    Make feeling good your goal, not weight loss or gaining muscle tone. Those benefits will come, but let them be a bonus to the increased energy and health you get. Tell yourself each time you exercise that your goal is health and energy. You will accomplish that goal, even on light workout days, just by reinforcing your minimum amount of exercise.

  6. Become Aware of Mental Benefits

    Notice how exercise makes you feel:

    • Do you deal with stress the same way?
    • How is your creativity?
    • Your problem-solving skills?
    • Do you enjoy food more?
    • Do you feel tired on non-exercise days?
    • Do you crave different foods?

    The more you understand the immediate benefits, the more you'll want to exercise each week.

  7. Enjoy the Changes

    As you exercise regularly, you will notice changes in your body:

    • weight loss
    • muscle gain
    • increased flexibility

    Enjoy these benefits as they come. Be prepared to notice them:

    • Is your posture improving?
    • Do grocery bags feel lighter?
    • Are you less stiff in the morning?
    • Can you go up and down stairs more easily?

  8. Enjoy Exercise

    Enjoy how your body feels during exercise:

    • Really feel your muscles and limbs.
    • Marvel at the mechanics of running, walking, or lifting.
    • Feel your pulse increase and your blood flow quicken.
    • Really appreciate what happens to your body during exercise.

  9. Improve Your Intensity

    Now that you have established an exercise habit complete with weekly minimums, you can experiment with intensity:

    • Hire a trainer for a few weeks to learn new routines.
    • Train for a 5K run.
    • Start using all the fancy settings on workout machines.
    • Work out with a more experienced friend who can guide you.
    • Try a new workout video.

    But remember that the most important goal is to maintain your minimum. How fast you run a mile or how much you can lift does not matter if you are not exercising at least several times a week.

    More Ways to Improve Your Mental Fitness

    More Fun Ways to Live Longer

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