What to do if you hate exercise?

What to do if you hate exercise? text with a woman in exercise clothing

Hate may feel like a strong word, but it may feel appropriate for certain aspects of our life (seriously, who likes going to the DMV?).  There are also times when that hatred ebbs and flows between a strong dislike to a mild annoyance.  It’s fair to say that things we hate, or have a strong dislike for, we are not going to regularly engage in.  However, what is one to do when they hate to exercise, but care about physical and personal health?  Here are a few ways to reframe our thinking and try new things in order to get away from hating exercise and begin taking steps toward learning and understanding what works best for us.

  • Choosing words wisely

    Sometimes the hatred comes from the very word, or our idea of the word, exercise. Exercise, to many people, means sweating, gyms, long commitments, hard routines, and painful experiences.  Exercise, by definition, is meant to be structured, planned and repetitive movements with the intention of improving or maintaining health, but your definition doesn’t have to have any of those other dreadful words in it.  You can call your workout what you want it. You could try to rebrand it to something more suitable to you, like physical activity, or simply call it by the name of the type of movement or activity you enjoy (i.e. swimming, hiking, walking etc.). By renaming your workout time, you can avoid thinking of exercise as a chore and reframe it as something that you look forward to doing or, at the very least, don’t mind doing. Don’t frame it as something that you hate, frame it as something that you like.

  • Get outside (when possible)

    Walking is often the easiest and most user-friendly place to start with exercise. It can be done almost anywhere and anytime.  Especially with better spring weather on the horizon, it might be a good time to get back outside and enjoy the scenery.  Treat yourself to a new pair of shoes or a new outfit to help ignite your new habits.  Stepping outside is a great way to feel refreshed, and can be a nice break to your day when your work revolves around being at a desk or trapped inside.

  • Find motivation and enjoyment

    It’s easy to get trapped in the thought of “If I’m not doing it, it’s because I’m not motivated enough”. That’s not always a fair assessment. Sometimes we want things but still can’t seem to make them happen.  Often, it isn’t an issue with motivation, but that something else that is getting in the way.  It might not be the motivation that’s the hurdle, but circling back to our first point, it may be because you thinking if you don’t do it for an hour, it’s not worth it, or that if you don’t suffer, it doesn’t count.  The real reason blocking you may have to do with you not finding what you enjoy, so you avoid doing it or making time for it. When you hate exercise, don’t think of it as exercise. Instead, find a hiking group, get a cheap bike to hit the paved trails, to take a dance class.  Find what you enjoy and what inspires you to move, and then do it.

Remember to always consult with your doctor or other exercise specialists when starting a new routine.  Make them aware of changes in signs and symptoms before starting a new fitness routine, as you start, or at any point during exercise. Protect yourself, start slow, and have fun.

Kimberly Burke is the director of the Adult Fitness Program at Colorado State University, an outreach program through the Department of Health and Exercise Science. Adult Fitness offers exercise opportunities for employees of CSU as well as community members while providing hands-on learning experiences for health promotion students. To learn more see the Adult Fitness Program website.