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How to start exercising - if you don't like to exercise?

How to start playing sports - exercise, jogging or just walking to get those 10 000 steps a day and improve your well-being and health?

“I would like to exercise… “


“I like beer/wine … That is who I am.”


We all know that we need exercise, but – for many – it is not attractive.


If we don’t like something, we find tons of reasons not to do it. There’s always something more important or urgent, or we’re “so tired” that the only thing we can do before bed is watch a movie, see what’s new on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter … 😊


Go for a run? Gym? Forget it – we’re too busy or tired. Maybe tomorrow …


Even though doctors and nutritionists constantly highlight the need for physical activity – we postpone them all the time.

We don’t understand how hard workouts can give us satisfaction and make us feel better …?

We are fine right here on the couch.


You know, when I was younger, blue mould cheese disgusted me, but now I like it. It’s the same with sport – the ‘taste’ doesn’t appear straight away.

This article is about how to start playing sport and how to really enjoy it.


Why many of us don’t like to exercise?

When you like something, it’s hard to understand why others don’t like it.

But there are many reasons why people may find exercise unpleasant or undesirable, for example:

  • Past experiences. If you were unable to do something in school sports and were publicly shamed for it – or maybe hit in the face with a ball during a game – you might start to avoid it.
  • Pain. For some people, certain types of exercise can be painful – exacerbating chronic illnesses, injuries and other existing health problems.
  • Discomfort. Some people dislike sensations such as heavy breathing or sweating. People who are taller or have a disability may feel that exercise equipment or group classes are simply not suitable for them. In addition to physical discomfort, this can also lead to feelings of shame and “not belonging”.
  • Perception. Some people may refuse to exercise altogether if exercise is seen as an obligation, a punishment or a test of physical ability.
  • Identity. Some people are put off by fitness culture. They do not want to join it. Their identity is elsewhere.

So how to overcome all this and get started?


1 Stop trying to start exercising

Yes, you read that correctly.


This advice definitely sounds strange.


If you find exercise to be an impossible, excruciating task – the best approach might be to give it up completely.


The more you push yourself to do something you don’t want to do, the more likely it is that this dislike/resistance will grow. Conversely, if you stop convincing yourself that you should start exercising – you may find that you actually enjoy exercising (walking, swimming, cycling, etc.).


Yes, exercise is good, but you don’t have to run every morning or sweat in the gym 3 times a week – in your life you choose how you spend your time and energy.

However, if you want to discover the joy of movement – keep reading.


Try doing nothing

Literally NOTHING. Restrict your movements for a few days and see what happens – just lie in bed and DO NOTHING.

How do you feel after two or three days?

Maybe you feel like moving around a bit?

The aim of this experiment is not to show that we need movement, but to help you understand that movement can make you feel good.


You may find that your body craves movement more than you thought.


Focus on other ways to improve your health

Trying to convince yourself to do sport can lead you to miss out on other ways to improve your health that may be less stressful and more suitable for you.

If you can’t or don’t want to move, think of it this way – I still have plenty of other ways to improve my health.

You can devote your time and energy to improving the quality of your sleep, managing your stress or eating healthier. Exercise is not the only part of a healthy lifestyle.

Choose the one that appeals to you most and make it your priority.


Make a list of your Dreams

Focus not on how much you dislike the gym or exercise in general but on what you really want to do.

Put exercise aside for a while. Instead, think about what you would like to do and what you are really interested in, and make a list: “What I want to try before I die”.


Your bucket list may naturally inspire you to start moving (e.g. you need to be physically fit enough to climb Everest or cycle around Europe).

Or not.


A dream list exercise can redirect your attention to what you want for yourself – something meaningful and energising.

Then consider which dream you would most like to achieve and start today!


2 Aim for “movement”, not “exercise”

People often think that exercising means training for a marathon or “torturing” themselves with heavy weights in the weight room, etc.

But none of that is necessary to benefit from movement. You just have to move.


You don’t even have to schedule a specific “movement time” – it can be a series of small activities that accumulate during the day:

  • Walk to the bus stop – 6 minutes.
  • Walk with a colleague to a café – 4 minutes.
  • Walking around the office doing things on the phone – 20 minutes.
  • Walking home from the bus stop – 4 minutes.
  • Cleaning the apartment – 20 minutes.

Total – 54 minutes.

And. There’s also gardening, mowing the lawn, playing with the kids …


Research shows that if you see exercise as fun or play rather than work, you’ll also be less prone to snacking – you won’t want to “reward” yourself with something tasty for all the hard work you’ve done.


Move a little more

Unless you literally lie in bed all day, you may be moving more than you think. Getting up in the morning, making breakfast, going to work – it all requires movement.

In other words, maybe the question is not how to start exercising, but “How can you move a little more?”.

For example, could you walk backwards and forward while brushing your teeth in the bathroom?


Walk around the block when taking out the garbage?


Walk the dog for a few minutes longer? etc.                                    


Do what you really enjoy

If you want to increase your physical activity but exercise is not your thing – do what you really like to do.

For example, if you like to cook, focus on that. Cook more, try new and more complicated recipes …


The more you focus on cooking, the more you will move and naturally become more physically active – shopping, handling groceries, lifting pots and pans, moving around the kitchen …


Maybe after a while, as you get more comfortable with moving, you’ll go for longer walks, or start jogging, or even go to the gym.


Many hobbies that are not considered physical activity involve exercise, for example:

  • If you like to read, go to the library or walk around a bookshop.
  • If you like to shop, browse both shopping centres and specialised shops to find the best deal for you.
  • If you are a beer lover, maybe take a brewery tour or go to the shop for beer on foot instead of by car.
  • ect.

Every movement is important

Just the idea that your daily activities are helping you reach your fitness goals can help change your attitude toward movement. The placebo effect can also help you improve your fitness without changing your routine.

In other words, if we believe that our daily activities (e.g. housework or childcare) count as exercise, the physiological benefits of these activities are greater.

So, think about your daily routine and evaluate how the activities you already do contribute to your health and which ones you could do more often, longer, more intensively …


3 Do less

According to the CDC Physical Activity Guidelines, adults need at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week – that’s 22-43 minutes per day.

If you think the above recommendations are too complicated, try these:

  • If 22 minutes at once seems too much, break it up into shorter activities of 5 to 11 minutes.
  • Start small – Make 22 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a goal, not a starting point. Start with as little as 5 minutes of activity and add 1 minute a day every month. After a year, you will have exercised for 17 minutes a day and will have established a regular daily habit that many people never achieve.
  • Rate the possible physical activity on a scale of 1 to 10 and find a level of activity that you think is feasible, for example:
    1. Parking the car further away from the office to walk more;
    2. Taking the stairs instead of the lift.
    3. 10 minutes of exercise in the morning.
    4. 30 minutes of exercise 3 times a week.
    5. 30 minutes workout 3 times a week + 20-minute walk every day.
    6. 60 minutes workout 3 times a week + daily walk.
    7. 60 minutes workout 4 times a week + weekend hikes.
    8. 60 minutes workout 5 times a week + 60-minute walk every day.
    9. 60 to 90 minutes workout 6 times a week.
    10. Intensive daily training for service in a Military Special Forces unit.

4 Experiment

If you want to move more, try different activities. This means doing something you might not like.


You might find something you like.

To make the experimenting process easier, here are some ideas:

  • Follow the 10-minute rule – try something for just 10 minutes. If you don’t like it, stop. This approach makes it easier to try something new – jump in the pool with the kids for 10 minutes and see how you get on, try a 10-minute Zumba class online, or join a yoga class on YouTube… The hardest part is getting started, and it’s easier to get started if you’re committed to “sticking it” for just 10 minutes.
  • Go back to what you liked to do in the past. Make a list of activities you enjoyed as a child. Jump rope? Play football? Walk in the woods? Choose something from your list and try it. Yes, it might be harder as an adult, but it might also bring out your playfulness 😊.
  • Make a list of new activities you want to try (dance class, horse riding, acro yoga, boxing, drumming…) and try them all one after the other. Even if you think you hate ALL exercise, there may be some you haven’t tried yet.

Align your expectations with Reality

Fitness culture has evolved rapidly and encourages people to become more active, and that’s good.

On the other hand – bad, because it’s not trendy to just put on a sweater and start to move 😊.

If you work out, you should do it at least three times a week, in a modern tracksuit and with complete dedication.

Moreover, effort in the gym, regardless of your age, gender and lifestyle, should result in abs cubes etc.


The truth is that none of this is necessary to improve your health and well-being, nothing sophisticated is required, and your workouts don’t necessarily have to result in magical body transformations overnight.

All you need to do is move around doing what makes you happy.


By not raising the bar too high, you can make exercise less distressing… maybe even enjoyable.

Some people don’t like to walk and don’t like to go to the gym, but after a workout, they feel a sense of satisfaction that they have done it.

The good news is that you don’t have to love exercise. The goal is to find something that is bearable and adds some value to your life.

Think of it like brushing your teeth – no one is excited about it, but you know it is important for your health, and you feel good after you have done it.


Key takeaways

Not liking exercise is not an aberration. It is neither good nor bad.

It doesn’t mean you’re lazy or don’t have the willpower – it’s just your personal choice.


It cannot be denied that exercise is good for the human body.

That’s why.

Find a way to move a little more every day and try to make it a habit.

But if you don’t succeed, don’t beat yourself up.

Being dissatisfied with oneself and self-flagellation are the main reasons why people give up exercising.

Research also shows that self-acceptance is positively associated with health-promoting behaviours such as healthy eating, exercise, maintaining sleep patterns and stress management.

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