Do We Need To Change How We View Exercise?

Exercise. What were the first feelings you had when you read that word? Were they positive or negative? If they were negative, you’re not alone. For many of us, the very thought of having to do ‘official’ exercise is enough to make us break out in a cold sweat. Somehow we view exercise as some sort of punishment.

Remember when you were a kid? Walking, running, and biking didn’t seem like work, did they? We were just outside having fun. We didn’t think, “I should be getting some exercise, so I’m going to go ride my bike for 30 minutes. Oh, and if it doesn’t hurt, I must not be doing it right.

Somewhere along the way, maybe our view of exercise became skewed. Physical activity became more of a chore than something we did for fun.

The “No pain, no gain” mentality took over. We started thinking that we needed to be miserable while exercising for it to do any good. Let me just tell you — not only is that not true; it’s downright damaging. So many people have developed negative feelings around exercise because of those four little words.

Even when we don’t realize we’re thinking it, that insidious little idea can be hanging around in our minds. We often think if we don’t exercise for a certain amount of time at a specific intensity, it doesn’t “count” as exercise.

But wait — what about those Physical Activity Guidelines?(1) Don’t they say we need to exercise for 150 minutes per week at moderate intensity? The short answer is yes. BUT they also say that, “Some physical activity is better than none. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits.”

That means that doing ‘just a little better’ with our exercise can start to make a difference in our health. As we talked about in 21 Small Ways to Move More, there are a lot of small things we can do to incorporate more movement into our day.

Okay” you may be saying, “but I still hate exercise.”

It might be helpful to ask ourselves, “Do I really hate exercise, or do I hate the idea of doing it the way I “should” be doing it?” So often, the activities we decide to engage in are based solely on the number of calories we can burn doing them.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but what if the activity we choose for calorie burn is something we absolutely detest? I don’t know about you, but I absolutely could not make myself stick with doing an exercise I hate.

Maybe it’s time to change our view of exercise.

Rather than looking at exercise as something we have to do, let’s find things that we like to do. Let’s get rid of the notion that exercise has to be hard to improve our wellness. Let’s get rid of the ‘shoulds’ surrounding it and enjoy how movement makes us feel.

Sheet music with text overlay: "Movement is the song of the body." Vanda Scaravelli

Finding those things that we enjoy doing makes it easier to stick with exercise. And let’s face it — if we can’t stick with it, we’re not going to see the benefit.

In her book No Sweat, (2) Michelle Segar, PhD, tells the story of one of her clients who, every New Year, determined that she was going to lose weight. She’d go to the gym and do the elliptical, rower, and treadmill at high intensity, hating every minute of it. When Michelle asked her how long she stuck with it, she told her she usually made it about three weeks. Michelle suggested that her client try doing something she actually liked instead, and her answer was, “But I won’t get the benefits if it doesn’t hurt to do it.” Michelle’s response was, “How much of those benefits are you getting from doing it three weeks out of the year?” Great point, right?

Rather than torturing ourselves with exercise we don’t enjoy doing, we can find ways to move that not only make us feel good while we’re doing them but help us feel better in the long run.

Which activities do you enjoy?

In order to find those activities we enjoy, sometimes we need to take a look at our feelings around certain types of exercise. Do we have positive or negative feelings about certain types of exercise? How about the setting we exercise in? Do we prefer solitary pursuits or group activities?

Taking the time to look at these things can help us move toward finding activities we can enjoy and stick with. If you’d like some help with this process, you can download the Feelings About Exercise form. All you have to do is fill out the form below, and you’ll see it in your email shortly.

Finding out that there are some activities that we feel positive about might help us change our view of exercise.

Once we’ve figured out what kind of activities we want to participate in, we’ll take a look at getting started with exercise. Next week, we’ll talk about different ways we can structure our activity to improve our overall wellness without making ourselves feel worse.

What kind of relationship do you have with exercise? Do you view it as something that just has to be done or do you see it as something you actually enjoy? Please share!



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Two children walking their bikes down a gravel road facing away from camera with text overlay: Do We Need to Change Our View of Exercise?



(2) No Sweat, How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, 2015, Michelle Segar, PhD, AMACOM, New York, New York.


  1. I love to exercise! It wasn’t always that way, but I have been consistently exercising for years now. I do think it’s important to make it playful. Sometimes it can become a chore or something to check off the to do list. I am the type that I have had to learn to take days off. Initially, it was difficult to take a day off, but now I see the power of rest.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Sarah! I’m so glad to hear that you love exercise and that you’ve been able to be consistent with it over the years. So many people look at it as punishment, and that makes it really hard to stick with it. And I agree 100% – rest is vital. I hope you’re staying safe and well sweet friend. Hugs!

  2. Great post Terri. I think it’s so easy to get in the mindset of hating to exercise. I don’t like it myself when look at it as a process. But when I look at hiking and walking they are things i love to do. When we’re trapped indoors it become more of a challenge to find wasy to enjoy moving around. One thing I’ve doen it change my mindset about what excercise is. Housework is for me and chasing our puppy around has helped me lose 20 lbs. I still don’t like the planned, have to do activities but i have enough to do to keep me moving more than sitting. Have great day.

    1. Thanks so much Melinda! It sounds like you’ve found some great ways to get your movement in and actually enjoy it. You made an important point — sometimes we have to change our mindset about what “counts” as exercise. I’m so glad you’ve been able to do that. Sending hugs your way sweet friend!

  3. I love to exercise and really look forward to my workouts! I only do routines that are fun to me and see no point in forcing myself to do something I hate because I know it won’t be attainable and I won’t stick to it for long. Another big problem is a lot of people work out for the wrong reasons and do it strictly for vanity which sucks the fun right out of exercise.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing! It’s wonderful that you find joy in your movement. I think it’s smart for you to only do those things you enjoy. As you said, that makes it much easier to stick with your workouts. And I agree – exercising just for vanity’s sake is a surefire way to suck “the fun right out of exercise.” Hope you’re staying safe and well my friend. Blessings to you!

    2. Hey Sarah, I thought that sounded like you, but then when I tried to follow your link to make sure it was, it said it couldn’t find your website. I just saw you on twitter so I knew for sure it was you. I really like your new name!

      1. Hi Terri I am glad you like the new name! That’s weird that it didn’t work it should have. My link to my new website is on Twitter in my profile but if you still are having trouble and want to follow let me know and I will send you a request:)

  4. A person I follow who works out in very impressive fashion posted last week that there is no need to try and emulate her. She suggests 30 minutes per day of movement. Any movement. With that in mind, I changed my pool routine (first time in the pool in 7 months) to gentle swimming and stretching in the water. It worked well!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing George! I’m so happy to hear you’ve been able to get back into the pool. I’m glad to know the person you follow made the point about not needing to emulate her. Good on her! Everyone’s body is different and comparing ourselves to others causes a lot more harm than good most of the time. I hope you and Sandy are staying safe and well, and that Sally didn’t affect you guys too much. Blessings to you!

      1. Thanks, Terri. We are okay, both needing and wanting to get out more. Sally totally missed us, other than some clouds and a couple rain bands. No wind. Pensacola, in the western part of Florida, got pounded with water.

  5. You always write relevant posts Terri. I am an avid exercise nut but I noticed as I got older I needed to make a lot of adjustments in my workload and the amount of time exerted doing them. I was hard to do because I think in all of our minds we are that young 25 year old that knows we can do them but our bodies say another thing.

    1. Thank you so much Mark! It’s funny you should mention the whole thinking in our minds that we’re still 25 years old….. My husband and I talk about that quite often. I don’t have that problem so much – probably because my fibromyalgia reminds me of that all the time – but I do have to remind my Hubby he’s not a young’un anymore. Of course, he’s not thrilled with me when I tell him that.😊 I’m glad you enjoy exercise so much – it really is a gift to enjoy something that’s so good for us. Blessings to you dear friend!

  6. Great post, Terri. Important, too.
    I found I got very discouraged by constantly being told that exercise would improve my symptoms. It never did. So mentally, I had a lot of anger over that. It took a mental shift to say that ok, exercise won’t improve my chronic illnesses, BUT it will improve my overall health and hopefully help me age a little better. Once I shifted my perspective, it was a little easier.
    I think you make some great points, too about the need for so many minutes and moderate intensity…..moving is moving. Sometimes, baby steps is the best approach.
    As always, great advice. Thanks!!

    1. Thanks so much Stace! You bring up a great point about something so many of us who live with chronic pain have to overcome. When we start exercising with the thought that it’s going to help our symptoms, if that doesn’t happen, it can derail us. As you said, making that shift to say that even if it doesn’t improve your symptoms, it will improve your overall wellness is huge. And you know the funny thing? Once I made that shift and started exercising more, it actually did end up helping me. I do still have flares and deal with fatigue, but not nearly as much as before. Of course, I credit my OMT for that; they’re what got me to the point that I could comfortably increase my exercise, and it’s what corrects any imbalances that occur and cause pain. Hope you’re doing well sweet friend. Sending hugs your way!

      1. Terri, what’s an OMT? Sorry-not familiar with that acronym.

        For me, literally nothing has helped-but pain meds. Pain beds prevent my being bed ridden again…But I have tried everything and anything. Even my Doctor calls me her “perfect patient”.
        So it really had to come to the point of my giving up on ever getting better, to start learning to live within the confines of diseases I cannot control.
        While this is MY way of coping and I certainly understand it may seem hopeless or glib to many; for me, it set me free.
        Giving up on an impossible fight and stopping the constant chasing of cures, help or treatment, gave me the chance to live the life I do have.

        Now I face it as: this is my life and this is what I have. How do I hold on to this quality? How do I make what I have as good as it can be? How do I prevent getting more disease as I age or becoming more disabled?

        We all have our own ways and we survive (occasionally thrive) in our own ways.
        But for me, the constant cycle of being told to try something, promised it would help and the defeat of it not, was too damaging. It was a constant cycle of hope, disappointment and ultimately feeling like a failure.

        By shifting all of that away and trying to just live well, it gave me some semblance of control.
        But we’re all different, we get through this however we can, share what works for us and that’s what I love.
        Great read, Terri! ❤️

      2. Stace, I certainly don’t see acceptance as “hopeless or glib.” Like you, I found it to be very freeing to just say, “My body is just going to do what it’s going to do and I need to work within the parameters it sets for me.”

        For some people, that means taking medication that allows them to function and get on with life in the capacity that they’re able. Being able to accept that helps them avoid that cycle you were talking about and live well whatever their bodies decide to do. We just have to get to know our bodies and what works for us.

        For me, if something sounds like it has the potential to help and makes scientific sense, I’ll give it a try, but I don’t hang a lot of expectations on it.

        OMT is Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment, and it’s one thing that has helped me immensely. BUT — evidently, you have to be careful when choosing your Osteopath — I saw a video somewhere of some treatments that, had I been the person they were working on, I would never have gone back to them. I go every month and my doctor knows that my body is very sensitive to the treatment and she doesn’t need to apply much pressure anywhere. My hips are a nightmare and I have some really bad trigger points She’s able to address my hip disfunction and ease out my trigger points without hurting me.

        I agree with you Stace — our bodies are all different so we just have to do what works for us, and share in case it can help somebody else.

        Sending hugs your way sweet friend!

      3. I’m right there with you, Terri. I’ll try it, but I don’t hold much stock in it.
        Although new meds are not my friend…..With ALLLLL that has happened this year (pandemic aside which sounds insane), I decided to give myself a break from any new Docs and trying any new meds. The Botox botch really did me in. But I don’t always feel that way. It’s cyclical.
        Oh ok on the OMT. Yup, hadn’t heard of it-see you did teach me something new!!
        That’s great that it helps and it’s even more important that she appreciates and understands your body and what it can accept.
        It’s so true that you need to choose carefully and find the right person. Finding good ones is a huge hurdle, but boy do they ever help, once you do!!
        Much Love, Terri ❤️

  7. My past view of exercise: I’m a recovered over exerciser and dieter – eating disorder, body dysphoria, etc. That was me for over 30 years. Then chronic pain and fatigue knocked me onto my back (not the proverbial knees). As I recovered from that, my Certified Nurse’s training kicked in with Range of Motion (RoM) exercises and the importance of movement (I cared for the elderly).

    Today: I do calisthenics, hand weights, leisure walking, chair/bed exercises too. Also included in my daily activity are household chores, weekly housework, yard work, gardening, remodeling, etc. ALL and ANY movement is activity for me now. Despite what doctors and medical “experts” claim(s); what is or is not healthy activity. I also advocate that any hobbies that distract from focus on food or pain contribute to my healthy living too.

    I’m gonna live to be 120, like that lady in the news a couple of weeks ago. Goals…life goals…are an important part of purposeful activity too.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Pamela! I love that you’ve been able to overcome so much and get to a healthy place with your views about exercise. It’s wonderful that you’ve been able to find the things that work for you. Your suggestion about finding hobbies that can distract from focusing on food or pain is an excellent one. I like your confidence about being that 120-year-old lady! I just saw a video on Facebook of a 94-year-old woman dancing that was quite impressive. I want to be like her when I grow up.😁 Thanks so much for reading and for your comment. Wishing you all the best in your wellness endeavors!

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