Putting Fun Into Fitness

Last Editorial Review: 1/30/2005

Does plodding along on a treadmill sound as much fun as a trip to the dentist? If you're having trouble getting motivated, add some fun to your fitness routine.

WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario

Ask the question, "Wanna go for a walk?" to a dog and he'll knock you over getting out the door. Try posing the same question to your spouse. Didn't exactly wag his tail, did he?

We all know that fitness is good for us. It just isn't much fun. Just ask anybody who squeezes into a leotard and spends the next hour sweating to the beat of a size 2 instructor yelling, "Just 10 more leg raises and then we'll do abs!" No wonder reclining on the couch with Ben & Jerry's ice cream and watching Sex and the City sounds more appealing.

It's time to rethink exercise, says Susan Butterworth, PhD, MS, director of corporate wellness services at Oregon Health and Science University. The "no pain, no gain" motto is out. Moderation is in. And it's time to ask yourself what's fun and what makes you smile. If you have trouble remembering, go to any park and watch children at play.

"Remember when we used to have fun as kids?" Butterworth asks. "Playing ball, swimming, just plain using our bodies." We weren't thinking about how many calories we just burned by running through the sprinkler. We were just having fun. And you can get that feeling back, she says.

How Do We Have Fun?

We may not always agree with what others think is fun. Spinning Hula Hoops might not be your cup of tea, but an Irish dance class tickles your toes. Skydiving makes your heartbeat just a bit too fast, but a row in the lake floats your boat.

How can you put some fun into your fitness?

  • Plan a short trip to a beautiful place where you'll be motivated to be more active than usual.
  • Involve your family and friends in an activity.
  • Something new.
  • Something old -- if the last ballet class you had was in the third grade, it's time to try it again.
  • Jump rope.
  • Play with your kids.

Make a New Tradition

Today, your family tradition may be lifting a spoon rather than lifting weights. Try something different. Make new family traditions around fitness and fun. After all, says Butterworth, children model their behavior after us; a sedentary parent is likely to have a sedentary child. It stands to reason, then, that an active parent will have active children, though active children don't necessarily mean active parents.

Lead the way. Get out that old game of Twister. The kids may groan at first, but those moans will soon be replaced with laughter. Let's face it, the image of Dad as a giant pretzel is kind of funny!

Be Happy

Moving your body feels good when you're having fun. You'll also find that if you're enjoying yourself, you'll have more energy and enthusiasm for other areas in your life.

Kristine Thomas, who is just beginning to get fit, says her biggest problem with getting in shape is that she's tired. However, if she can make it out the door, after a few minutes at her chosen sport of running, she's invigorated and feeling good about herself. It feels great to accomplish goals, too. Kristine is following a marathon-training regime. Though she may not actually run the marathon, just the thought that she'll soon be able to do so helps her feel good about herself.

Originally published Aug. 20, 2001.

Medically updated April 21, 2003.

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