Why fitness can be fun!

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Today I wanted to discuss a problem many people have with exercising and achieving fitness goals and point out a particular article from a mainstream fitness trainer. I know that some people wont agree with my opinion in this blog and you will have your own view based on your motivations and goals. Feel free to comment in the comment section below, but take a read of this blog first!

I recently read an article from Australian Celebrity Personal Trainer Michelle Bridges (http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/michelle-bridges-20130806-2rd7s.html) stating that Fitness should not be fun and it is hard work. I personally believe that this she is representing an approach to exercise and fitness that is detrimental. She has been so embedded in the ‘lose weight’, ‘get fit, ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality that she believes it cannot be fun and marketing it as fun is misleading.

I agree that advertising a Treadmill or doing sets of Weights as fun is probably misleading (unless you find it fun). However many gyms have great classes on offer that can be fun, good PT’s have ways to make fitness fun and challenging, there are so many sports and fitness activities out there that I promise you that are fun, its just a matter of finding them.

I think the first layer to understanding this lack of fun in fitness is by defining ‘Fitness’ and its separating it from the word ‘Exercise’. Fitness is a goal and exercise is the means to get to that goal. I think even the wording, ‘I am going to get fit’ is great for focus but starts to push your mindset into Michelle Bridges mindset of ‘this wont be fun’ or ‘shouldnt be fun’. When we start talking ‘Exercise’ now we are talking about the means to achieve that goal and this is where we come to the question, how can exercise be fun?

The answer is simple..

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We don’t need to delve into the concept of ‘Playing’ we all know what it is and have done it. Dr. Stuart Brown is co-author of the book, “Play — How it Shapes Our Brains, Opens the Imagination, and Shapes the Soul.” states “The evidence is broad. It starts objectively by watching animals at play and seeing what it does for them — it improves their performance, immune system, their capacity to remember things. And if you follow that through to a human system, those same benefits appear to us — particularly in fertile imagination, in a sense of optimism, in capacity to persevere and to do things that you enjoy — are all by-products of play. And if you then hook someone up to a brain imaging machine you’ll find out that when they’re at play, the brain lights up more from that than virtually anything else they can do.”

Everyone knows that a child can play physical games for hours, they are working hard physically and mentally, however, to them it is great fun and doesn’t feel like hard work. We can take a lot from that observation and carry it to our own exercise routine.

happy-exercising-woman

I hear all the time that the gym is not fun and they don’t like exercising, etc. My advice, ‘why don’t you do something fun then?’ .Go learn to play Tennis, join a team and play soccer or touch football, sign up to Martial Arts Development (Good Plug?).There are so many exercise options available that will more than likely be hardwork in the moment but by ‘Playing’ it will always make it seem like less difficult, not to mention that you will gain social and fitness benefits without even realizing. Personally, I treat my Martial Arts training in that context, so every now and again we will spar and still use technique but try things we wouldn’t normally do and have a laugh, or maybe just do some light Grappling with another partner that is trying to play as well. This really helps with creativity, fun, energy and focus.

Furthermore to the science behind playing, Dr Brown mentions, “If we stop playing, we share the fate of all animals that grow out of playing. Our behavior becomes fixed, we suddenly are not interested in new and different things; we find fewer opportunities to take pleasure in the world around us.”

In todays fast paced society some people don’t have the ability to find activities that involve physical play, but I’d urge you go try a class at a local gym that may offer a variety of times suitable for you. If you do get time and you aren’t having fun following your current exercise schedule, then change it up and find something fun to do!

 

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Comments
  • Jason Jarred
    Reply

    Hi David, you make a really good point about ‘fitness’ versus ‘exercise’, something I wish I had taken into consideration prior to writing my own blog post on the topic!

    I think the main problem with using the word ‘fun’, particularly as you’ve defined it by quoting from Dr Brown, is that it doesn’t adequately manage the expectations for new clients of what is involved. Certainly exercise has fun elements in it (and in fact I elaborate a lot more on this in my own blog post on the matter, feel free to take a look at skeptifit.com) but it’s abused by personal trainers as a way to hook more clientelle.

    “I hear all the time that the gym is not fun and they don’t like exercising, etc. My advice, ‘why don’t you do something fun then?’ ”

    I do many things that I wouldn’t call “fun”, but that are still immensely beneficial in a variety of mental, psychological and physiological ways. Take studying at uni, while there are definitely fun aspects to it, I would never tell my pre-uni friends “oh yeah, you should go to uni because it’s FUN!”. Again I go into more detail on the aspects I believe we should elaborate on in my blog post, so I won’t repeat it here.

    I get the whole “playful” martial arts approach and can appreciate that having done Aikido for several years myself in a wonderful dojo, but I think Michelle Bridges concern is more about managing expectations and is a smackdown aimed at cowboy personal trainers more interested in clientelle and business than actual client benefits.

    Great blog, I’ll be following you by RSS!

    Cheers,
    Jason Jarred
    http://www.skeptifit.com

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