Don't Dread Exercise, CRAVE It!

SBM: dont-dread-exercise-crave-it

Kristin L Schneider, PhD, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science


Hate exercise, but want to be more active? That’s ok! Finding ways to make physical activity more enjoyable and fun is key to developing a lifelong physical activity habit. Luckily, there are ways to make physical activity feel less like a chore and more fun. Try the CRAVE method to address the dread you feel when you put on your workout gear.

Create activity opportunities by building physical activity into your day. Walk or bike to complete an errand rather than driving (Bonus! It’s better for the environment and your pocketbook). Working from home? Consider a walk before work as your “commute.” Walk around your home or office during work calls. Schedule walking meetings if possible.

Reach out to others. One simple way to make activity more enjoyable is by making it a social activity that you complete with people you enjoy. This could be as simple as finding a walking partner who lives in your neighborhood, or as complex as joining an activity league with friends. Ideally, reach out to different individuals so that you do not rely on any one person for pairing physical activity with socialization.  They might hate exercise too and that could be yet another way to connect. By reaching out to others, you have the added benefit of having an accountability partner for physical activity.

Assess what you dislike about exercise. Do you hate all aspects of physical activity? Or once you get going, do you feel good and enjoy it? If the latter, you may need to spend more time warming up for physical activity rather than jumping right in. If it is the former, are you pushing the intensity of the activity too much such that the activity is painful or uncomfortable? Consider slowing down and lowering the intensity to see if that improves your enjoyment of the activity. Paying attention to how you feel during physical activity, and the circumstances that improve your enjoyment of exercise, can provide direction for how to engage in more enjoyable physical activity.

Values. Identify what is important to you, what matters to you, and connect those values to physical activity. For example, if you value adventure, you could identify physical activity adventures, like trying a new activity class that sounds fun. If you value contributing to a community, find a volunteer organization like Habitat for Humanity or Back on My Feet that would require engagement in physical activity as part of the work you do for that organization. Engaging in valued activities can remove some of the focus on the actual activity and how it feels, and highlight other reasons for engaging in physical activity.

Experiment! For some, disliking exercise might not be true of ALL types of physical activity. If your hatred of physical activity began during childhood or adolescence due to traumatic gym classes, traditional forms of physical activity like team sports may not be for you. Consider experimenting with different types of physical activity that again might connect to values you hold. Do you value spending time in nature? You might consider volunteering with the upkeep of a nature trail.

Use of the CRAVE method may help you to start craving physical activity, rather than dreading it. Whether or not your enjoyment of physical activity improves, make sure you create compassion for yourself. Maintaining a regular activity habit is not easy, particularly when you do not enjoy the activity. Congratulate yourself for any amount of physical activity, since any movement is better than none for improving your health and well-being.

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