So, you’ve lost your exercise mojo and you want to get it back? Well, you’re not alone. The Department of Health and Aged Care recently reported that 1 in 2 adults are not meeting the recommended physical activity guidelines for maintaining good health. In case you’re wondering, that’s 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise a week.
Whilst getting back into a pattern of regular exercise can be challenging, it can be done! In my experience as a psychologist and exercise scientist, I’ve found there are three things that can help…
Hack #1: Stop calling it exercise!
Exercise is one of those words that comes with a lot of baggage. It’s a word that means different things to different people. For some it means physical discomfort because if there’s no pain, there’s no gain. For others it means drudgery because running on a treadmill is so boring. For others it means embarrassment because everybody else seems more athletic or coordinated.
Strictly speaking, exercise is any structured, planned physical activity that seeks to promote health and fitness. So, there’s nothing objectively wrong with the word! But it tends to get tarnished in our minds, so much so that when we hear the word…our hearts don’t soar, they tend to plummet.
Of course, not everyone’s like that. But if it’s true for you, just stop using the word!
Try using ‘physical activity’ instead. Why? Because it’s more inclusive – it covers all the things normally considered part of a ‘keep fit’ regime (e.g., swimming, running, gym workouts), PLUS all the things that aren’t…the physical activity that happens as part of daily living (e.g., yard work, using the stairs rather than the lift, carrying bags of groceries).
To hammer home the point, I’ll only use ‘physical activity’ for the rest of this article.
Hack #2: Make enjoyment your priority
In my experience, too many people give time to physical pursuits they have no real passion for or interest in. They go to the gym because that’s what their friends do. Or they take up swimming because their doctor suggested it.
But if you talk to people who really love their chosen physical pursuit, you’ll find lots of mojo! I know because I’ve recently interviewed over two dozen people about the passion and enjoyment they get from pursuits as diverse as fencing, dragonboat racing, judo, surfing, kayaking, and ultimate (frisbee).
A common theme was they all regularly found time for their beloved pursuits. That’s not because they have simple, quiet lives. Far from it! They’re as busy as the rest of us. But what they seem to do is shuffle their lives in a way that allows them the time they need. They love what they do, and they make it happen! No struggle for motivation, just lots and lots of mojo.
So, make enjoyment your priority. Look around you and if the ‘standard’ options (like tennis, golf, soccer or netball) don’t really appeal, dig a little deeper. Our communities are jam packed with interesting physical pursuit options…you might just need to try a few.
Hack #3: Be social about it
Another big theme from these interviews was how important other people were to enjoying a physical pursuit. And that’s not just with team sports. The people involved in individual physical pursuits – like ocean swimming, cross-country running and ice skating – all spoke a lot about how much they valued the camaraderie and support they got from the people they swam, ran or skated with.
People with whom they share interests and a similar outlook on life. People who are encouraging, supportive and fun, who celebrate during the highs and commiserate during the lows. People who become cherished friends and can come to feel like an extension of family.
This is an important part of a physical activity ecosystem. The more we can gather a network of positive people around us, the more we’re likely to sustain our effort over time, and the more likely we are to reinvigorate our mojo!
So, there are three hacks – stop calling it exercise, make enjoyment your priority, and be social about it. Like anything that’s worth having, it might take a while to develop. But stick with it, we are natural active creatures and physical activity loves us back in a multitude of different ways!
Dr Gordon Spence, author of Get Moving. Keep Moving, is a highly sought-after speaker, coach, educator and author who helps clients to live well and perform well. A psychologist and exercise scientist, Gordon’s areas of expertise are sustainable performance and healthy ageing, with a particular interest in people returning to exercise in mid-life.
For more information visit www.healthyageingproject.com