Sunday, November 04, 2012

Hate exercise? Don't do it

We are such a self-punishing culture. Americans, especially women, often try to achieve ideal health or appearance in truly painful ways. While there's no getting around the pain of laser treatment or pelvic exams, there are many ways that we hurt ourselves completely unnecessarily, such as with physical exercise. And yet, to avoid it does more harm than good.

No pain, no gain? Don't accept this masochistic approach to fitness. If you're pushing yourself to run down the street or using threats to get yourself to the gym, please stop. The human body is meant to move every day, but make it movement that you enjoy. And everything counts. Dancing, gardening, covering entire lengths of shopping malls, stretching, playing physical games and going to the park are excellent ways to get in your daily movement.

One exercise that we high-achieving Americans tend to dismiss is walking. If you're trying to maintain any kind of fitness routine that you dislike, think about swapping that ordeal for time simply spent walking. Walking is a wonderful way to improve your health, and you can do it at any pace you like. If you have a dog, don't push it out the back door to do its business. Grab a leash and get both of you some exercise, for chrissake.

I spent years pounding snow-covered pavement because I had to get in my daily run. I spent even more years being a gym rat, sometimes getting up at 5:00a to get in that workout before work. It was crazy, and so was I.

No more. I'm done tormenting myself in the name of health. After years of free weights, nautilus machines, yoga, Pilates, step classes, running, interval training, stair masters and chin-up bars, I've figured out what I really like doing and I'm only doing that. It turns out my favorite movements are walking and yoga, so that's what I do. After ten years of dedication to Ballys fitness centers, I haven't visited the gym in months.

If you hate exercising, stop doing it. Just stop. Take yourself for a walk a few times a week as you reflect on your favorite activities and the movement you loved most as a kid. Then start working towards making those things a part of your life.

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