Should exercise be fun or work?

Exercise has many health benefits, including improvements to your circulation, calorie expenditure, blood sugar, strengthening your bones, slowing down aging, clearing your thoughts and improving your mood.

Unfortunately, most people see exercise as a must do activity — something that has to be done, and is not enjoyable. Maybe it’s wasn’t their choice to exercise, they’re just following the advice of their doctor to lose some weight.

Did you know, studies have shown that if you think exercise is fun, then you will naturally consume less food after your exercise? On the other hand, if you think of your exercise as a “workout” — something that is hard work — then you’ll tend to reward yourself by consuming more food afterwards.

One study asked a group of people to walk 2km around a small lake. Half of the group was told that it was going to be a beautiful scenic walk, the other half were told that it was exercise. After the walk, they were provided with lunch. Those who believed that they had exercised ate 35 percent more desert than those who thought they had just been on a nice walk.

In another experiment, a group of people were given a mid-afternoon snack after their walk. Those who believed they had just been exercising consumed 206 more calories of M&Ms, more than double the amount of those who did not see it as exercise.

So what can you do, to change the way you look at exercise?

First, find an exercise that you really enjoy doing! You may not even know what that is right now, but would you be open to trying some new activities? It doesn’t need to be hard — actually, the easier the better. When you start enjoying it, you will most likely stick to it.

Small, easy changes can lead to sustainable behavior changes, and making your new habit last.

Try different types of exercise, and different places. Go for a walk in a beautiful place, maybe join a group, or create a group with your friends. Find an activity you enjoy, and share it with others.

And when you’re exercising, don’t be thinking how many calories you’re burning. Just enjoy it!

I always say do exercise for your soul. If you like to lose weight, this is just a positive side-effect of your enjoyable exercise!

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Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at Ayda@DietDocHawaii.com or (808) 276-6892

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