How to Stop Hating Exercise

Straight talk and savvy advice from our senior fitness editor
March 24, 2011

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OK, I’m just going to say this: If you think you hate exercise, you haven’t tried the right kind.

It’s like saying you hate vegetables: Surely you don’t hate them all! If Brussels sprouts make you gag, you don’t stop eating veggies altogether. You try carrots or spinach or bok choy until you find something you like.

Or think about when you’re trying on new bathing suits. If the first one makes your body look like a sausage in a too-small casing, do you stalk out of the dressing room and head for the beach naked (or not at all)? No, you try other suits.

So why should it be any different with working out? If you hate walking or running or going to the gym, fine. Don’t walk or run or go to the gym! Try swimming or tennis or qigong—and if you don’t like those, try paddleboarding or kickball or Zumba.

Here’s why it’s worth it to put in the effort: Exercise has been shown time and again to make you happier, give you more energy, help you sleep better, cut your disease risk (think diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancer, even the common cold), help you lose weight and keep it off, increase your endurance so just living your life (lifting kids, climbing stairs, carrying groceries) feels easier…the list goes on. Talk about a wonder drug!

And if you’re thinking, OK, good point, but exercise is just so darned hard, hear this: Do it and it will get easier. It will. It’s like playing the guitar or knitting or making pie crust from scratch; it takes practice to get good at it. Our 21st-century selves are so wired for instant gratification that it’s easy to get frustrated when something challenges us. But things worth having, worth being, are worth working for.

I’m speaking from experience here. I used to hate exercise and was in pretty poor shape as a result. Then one day I saw someone whiz by on a pair of in-line skates and I thought, Wow, that actually looks like fun. So I got a pair and my world changed. To my utter amazement, I began to look forward to working out. And you know what else? The more I skated, the fitter I became—and the more I began to enjoy other activities (like hiking and biking).

What it comes down to is this: The key to finally learning to like exercise is to hang in there through all the trial-and-error and allow yourself the time and opportunity to find something you actually enjoy. And when that happens, exercise will become something you get to do, not something you have to do.

So, now, go forth and find your bliss.

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