Updated: Dec 2, 2020
Ever wondered why sometimes we feel like it is hard to have that motivation to get up and go out to exercise ? It’s not just you: Many people are turned off by the thought of exercise because they think it has to be intense or time-consuming. But the findings of a new study published in the journal BMC Public Health suggests that people could learn to enjoy being active simply by tweaking those beliefs and expectations.
So says the study’s lead author Michelle Segar, director of the University of Michigan’s Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center, who’s spent years researching what motivates people to get and stay physically fit. (She’s also author of No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness.) Too often, she says, people begin exercise programs to lose weight, and quit when they don’t shed pounds right away.
All of the women—whether they were regular exercisers or not—turned out to want the same things out of life: to have meaningful connections with others, to feel relaxed and free of pressure during their leisure time and to accomplish the goals they’d set for themselves, whether in their personal lives, their careers or simply their daily to-do lists.
The big difference, the researchers found, was that women who were inactive viewed exercise as counterproductive to those things. In order for exercise to be valid, they thought, it had to be seriously heart-pumping and sweat-inducing—the complete opposite of the “relaxing” feeling they wanted from their free time.
They also felt that following an exercise program took up too much time and put too much pressure on them, and that it was too difficult to commit to a schedule and meet expectations, leaving them feeling like failures.
While walking is an easy way to squeeze in more movement throughout the day, she also encourages people to get creative. “If you liked biking as a kid, rent a bike and see if it still feels good,” she says. “Play tag with your kids, take a dance class or even just climb the stairs a few extra times while you’re doing chores around the house.”
Most importantly, researcher says, people need to know that any physical activity is better than no physical activity. “You don’t have to do 30 minutes at a time, you don’t have to sweat and you don’t have to hate whatever it is you’re doing.”
– AMANDA MACMILLAN, Time (2017)