It is my purpose and my passion to help people conquer their demons through physical and mental health and fitness. Fitness was a powerful tool in winning my fifteen-year fight against depression and PTSD, and is PROVEN to combat depression.
Even for those without clinical depression, not exercising is like taking a depressant. It is an absolutely essential element of any depression treatment plan.
But what if you hate exercise? Then it's time to rethink what you consider exercise.
If an hour on the treadmill sounds like hell to you, then DON'T DO IT! If you'd rather get a root canal than attend a boot camp session, then DON'T DO IT!
The many articles available about making exercise fun are mostly about activities. But the biggest hurdles to health and fitness are mental, so if you still hate exercise, then it's time to totally reframe your perception of exercise.
Here are some super unconventional ways to exercise and enjoy yourself at the same time!
1. LEARN FROM YOUR DOG
Yup. Be like your dog! As any dog lover knows, they can teach us a lot about how to live a good life. One thing they can teach us is about exercise and play.
Dogs need regular activity to stay physically and mentally healthy, just like we do. But dogs love to exercise.
They don't want to run on a treadmill—indoors in the same exact spot—for hours. Take a dog to a park and it runs around like a maniac until it’s panting and drooling and begging for more.
Dogs will use all their energy for play. They teach us that exercise should be fun, not a punishment or chore. To a dog, exercise and play are the same.
Every dog owner knows how relaxed and happy a high-energy play session makes a dog. They are much better behaved because their extra energy is burned off and anxiety reduced. They are tuckered out for the rest of the day and they sleep so soundly at night.
Exercise is a natural anti-anxiety and anti-depressant. It works the same way for humans and for dogs.
Dogs teach us that getting outside is an occasion to be celebrated! Getting outside for exercise is as simple as going for a walk around the block or hiking in a beautiful park. You could bike (also a freeing, childlike activity) or swim at a river or pool.
If you have a dog, make sure to walk them at least once a day, for your health and theirs. Try running with the pooch if it's not too hot. (Dogs can get dangerously overheated in the heat.)
When physical activity includes a social element, fun takes over and you barely notice you're getting exercise. Join a softball team or a kickball rec league, or join up with some disc golf players.
Try out rock climbing, skiing, or snowboarding for fun and exciting outdoor exercise. Unlike the activities above, climbing, skiing, and snowboarding require a bit of an investment. But it's well worth it if you enjoy them! And you'll never know until you try.
2. NEVER TREAT EXERCISE AS A FORM OF PUNISHMENT
Banish the concept of exercise as punishment. When a dog is running around the park, it is never because they were bad or because they need to lose weight. Exercise should NEVER be something you have to endure as a consequence for bad behavior.
Exercise is a privilege, not a penalty.
I exercise out of respect my body, not because I hate it. I want to be healthy, flexible, and strong now and into my nineties. I want to feel strong and empowered.
Evidence shows that you are likely to exercise less if you do it for weight-loss only. People who exercise for reasons other than appearance (health, strength, feel-good chemicals) exercise more frequently AND have a more positive body-image.
It's more fun and more effective to exercise out for the health of it!
3. BE CHILDLIKE
If you can't find your inner dog, try to embrace your inner child instead.
Children and dogs both combine exercise and play. Children can also use all of their energy and push past their fatigue in the name of fun. Do you remember being a kid and running around and playing until you were sweaty and gasping for air? You were enjoying your life!
Jumping rope, hula-hooping, and jungle gym-ing are all fantastic forms of exercise that kids can do all day, way past the point where their muscles fatigue.
Monkey bars improve grip, shoulder, and core strength. You can also use them for pull ups, dips, and upside down crunches. Revive your childhood memories of fun on the playground.
Trampolining is great exercise and immediately results in fun. There are both gymnastic centers that have trampolines and spaces exclusively for jumping! Find one of these gyms near you or buy a small trampoline for your home.
YOUR SECOND CHILDHOOD
Do you have kids? That's perfect.
Your children are the best reason to workout, and NOT an excuse not to. Play with them! Whether it's playing tag, hopscotch, or the activities mentioned above, engaging in active play with your children will boost the health and vitality of the whole family. And bring your and your children closer together.
Dancing is great exercise, but when I suggest dancing, I'm not talking about sexy, cool bumping and grinding. I'm not talking about ballet, hip-hop, or even Zumba. Those are a little too conventional.
I'm talking about silly dancing. Silly dancing is one of my favorite activities because it is almost impossible to do without having fun. I usually laugh so hard that I can barely breathe.
Put on some music (I'm partial to eighties pop and songs I loved in high school). Do the running man, the twist, the Charleston, and the Carlton. The sillier and more energetic, the better. Make goofy faces too!
These silly, carefree activities rekindle a childlike energy that those with depression, PTSD, or anxiety desperately miss.
4. IMAGINE BEING DEAD
Stay with me here.
Dead people can't run and jump. They can't move their joints. They can't feel the blood pumping and hear their heart racing and feel their lungs fill with life-giving breath.
Nothing brings me appreciation for my body more than imagining that I don't have it anymore.
In some hypothetical afterlife, I would LONG to feel the movement of my limbs, the beating of my heart, and the wind against my face. I would give anything if only I could go back, and I'd never take them for granted again.
Perhaps it seems morbid, but it doesn’t feel that way to me at all. It makes me feel grateful for the life and body I have. It's not a given.
I do not take for granted that I have two functioning legs, two functioning arms, and functioning organs. I hate to take those things for granted. Because they are not granted. They are a privilege.
Exercise is a privilege, and a way to fully LIVE in your body. You've got this one body. Live in it!
I mean, really LIVE in it. If you can't enjoy exercise, at least enjoy the vitality in every cell of your body. You get one life, and exercise UNEQUIVOCALLY makes it BETTER, so stop selling yourself short and DO IT.
Move your body.
Feel the pounding of your feet on the ground and the pumping of your blood through your veins.
Enjoy yourself and enjoy your LIFE.
Join me for motivation and inspiration to overcome your darkness and live a happy, full, and badass life!