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Path to Health - Day 16: Play to Exercise

Why don't we exercise as much as we should? Simple answer: because we hate it. We fear it. We see it as tedious drudgery. One day, we might commit ourselves to going to the gym 5 days a week, then by the time the middle of next week rolls around, we're already thinking to ourselves, "Oh my GAHD!! Can't I just skip today?! Can't I just PLEASE go back to watching Bones on NetFlix or something?! I just SO don't want to have to pack my gym clothes, drive to the gym, work with all those stupid machines, get all sweaty and exhausted, and just feel so self-conscious about my body while other people there look like supermodels. I mean, what the heck are they still even doing there?! GO HOME, YOU MEATHEADS! You look FABULOUS already! You've WON at Gym, so just leave me and my insecurities alone!"

For most of us, we don't exercise because we're conditioned to believe that exercise is super hard work that sucks. Our mindset towards exercise has already convinced us that we're going to hate it before we even begin. And so that mindset becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And the result of this is that we end up not wanting to exercise, so we quit and become fat and lazy, watching in subconscious sadness as video game characters we control gain more skills than we do.

So what's the solution? Play. Stop treating exercise as work, and start treating it as play. Nobody said that you have to go to a gym to lift weights and use an elliptical just to be healthy (well, nobody except the people who would profit from you taking that approach). All you actually need to do to exercise is move about enough--it doesn't matter if you're moving boxes at work or playing with your kids outside or whatever. Just move.

After I graduated college, I spent about six months sitting on my ass, not looking for work as actively as I should've been, playing video games and getting fatter and fatter. I went from a lethargic 275 to an embarrassing 293--the heaviest and unhealthiest I've ever been in my life. Then I started a job at a local pet store, where I was on my feet for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. A year later, I dropped from 293 down to 250, just from the minimal physical requirements of my job. It wasn't something I necessarily enjoyed, but it was beneficial, and the proof was in the pudding: moving was enough to get me to lose weight.

But if you want to make movement a regular part of your daily life, make it something you're going to enjoy. For me, I love taking morning walks right after breakfast. I especially love hiking in wooded areas, and I'm fortunate to live in a region where wooded areas are plentiful near my home. (Of course, I'm also unfortunate in that I live in a town with some of the worst weather in the nation, especially during the winter, meaning I often miss out on walking during the colder, snowier months.) Biking, yoga, and tennis are also physical activities I just plain enjoy doing, and I have plans to incorporate those more into my routine as time progresses and weather improves. My point is, you don't have to hate your exercise. If you love lifting weights and doing crunches and running on a treadmill, that's great--do what you love. If you hate all those things and would rather just play with your kids or shoot hoops with your friends, that's great too--do what makes you happy.

If the idea of all physical activity puts you off and you're not sure what you would actively enjoy doing, then perhaps you simply haven't tried the right thing yet. Experiment with new activities, or try to put a creative spin on an old one. Or maybe you just want a more social element to your fitness--seek out local groups that do some sort of physical activity and see if they'd be a good fit for you. After all, if you're going to be playing to exercise, that play becomes exponentially more fun when done with other people who are also having fun. The good mood becomes practically infectious.

So run. Go outside. Play. Move about. Turn the drudgery of exercise into something fun and exciting, and you'll eventually not even have to think about losing weight and getting fit--it will just happen naturally, and you'll be enjoying every moment of it.