I’d like to tell Michelle Bridges – exercise is fun.

Fiona and Sarah from Body Positive Australia recently wrote a great blog post about the discrepancies in Sunday Life’s recent ‘Body Issue’ – check it out here. I agree with all their sentiments, but I particularly wanted to address Michelle Bridge’s article. You can read the full article if you’d like, but in summary she says fitness is not and should not be fun; the starting line quotes “If I hear one more health club or personal trainer tell me that fitness should be fun I’m going to vomit.”

I recognise there are people who hate exercise, we’re all different and that’s ok. By all means, not everyone is going to find exercise fun, and not everyone will need to find it fun to engage in it. But, there are people who enjoy exercise and even *shock horror* think it’s fun. I’m one of those people. I genuinely have fun when I’m going for a walk or run with my husband, when I’m teaching a RPM or BodyPump class, when I’m lifting heavy things in the gym. Yesterday I did BodyBalance at home by myself and during the ‘balance’ track I remember thinking how happy I was at that very point in time. That’s not to say I have fun each and every time I exercise, but in general I really do find exercise to be fun. And it’s because I enjoy exercise that I keep doing it. Sure, there are hundreds of health benefits to be had from exercising, but ‘I’m preventing heart disease’ or ‘improving my bone density’ aren’t my primary motivations and it’s not what gets me out of the bed on a cold morning to go for a walk or run.
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I think we also need to recognise that people all have different goals and reasons for exercising. Whilst Michelle Bridges might do it be super-fit or to look a certain way, some people are happy to exercise just to be healthy, to be able to walk up a few flights of stairs rather than to run a marathon, to be able to play with their kids rather than squat 100kg. And that means the type and intensity of exercise they need to do is different. In her article, Michelle says “Let’s admit it, the words “Wow! This is fun!” rarely escape our lips when we’re grinding up Heartbreak Hill on the City to Surf or midway through our fifth set of deep barbell squats” and “as I step on to “Crossie” (my trusty – and well-used, I might add – cross trainer) for a 45-minute interval training session at level 12 at 5:30 in the morning, I am not giggling excitedly, muttering ‘OMG! This is going to be so much fun!’ I know exactly what it’s going to be, and it isn’t fun.” The fact is, that not everyone needs to exercise in this way to achieve their individual goals, many people just need to take their dog out for a good walk each night. Can we please take a step back and recognise that not everyone wants or needs to be an athlete and by suggesting they do, we often decrease rather than increase their likelihood of exercising.

In a world where people are becoming increasingly sedentary in their day-to-day lives we need to be promoting a diverse range of activity, rather than telling people it’s something dreadful that they won’t enjoy but have to do anyway. There’s been so much research to show intrinsic motivation (doing something because you enjoy it) leads to greater compliance to an exercise program than any form of extrinsic motivation (doing something because you want to change your body, because you think you should, because someone told you to etc), so maybe we should be telling people to find a type of exercise they enjoy and do that, whatever that exercise is.

And on that note, I really want to start dance classes, either ballroom or adult ballet. Why? For fun! I’ve always loved the thought of dancing, of moving my body to music. And guess what, it’s exercise at the same time. Sorry Michelle, it might not be working out on the “crossie” at 5:30am or “grinding up heartbreak hill” but it is still exercise. And it’s good for me; for my mind, body and soul.

*Update – I did start Ballet classes, over 2 years in and I’m still loving it!

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3 thoughts on “I’d like to tell Michelle Bridges – exercise is fun.

  1. Chris says:

    It’s funny how we use the word ‘fun’. I like to think that exercise should be satisfying and rewarding, because that way if it’s not always ‘fun’, it can still be a genuine experience of something real and you’re getting something out of it and it’s still worthwhile, certainly without it being something you hate or resent. It must be rewarding to be worth doing. So basically I’m with you! I know that it’s not always fun in the moment, but it often is, and so that’s my guide these days – is this satisfying? Am I having a good time? Or do I feel like I’m just doing what’s expected, and going through the motions, and then – what’s the point? Because the good things, the things that aren’t based on fear and exploitation, the good things are the sense of achievement I feel, or the sense of satisfaction, or even the endorphin-thing, or the incredibly special awe I feel at being capable of doing a thing that I used to not be able to do – all that stuff is so much more rewarding than body composition changes or the idea of ‘health’. And for me, the key is kinda intuitive, enjoyable movement, without prejudice – I’m pursuing that now. Sometimes it’s weightlifting, sometimes martial arts or walking, but I don’t waste my time with activities that don’t engage me, that don’t stimulate me. There are so many movement styles, might as well be working on something you like! And so, if it’s satisfying, then I’m enjoying the process, and the whole thing feels like fun, even if it isn’t the same kind of fun as playing board games with friends. I know, board games, I’m so cool, right?

    I have type one diabetes, and not once have I ever gone to the gym excited because I was going to stimulate insulin sensitivity in my skeletal muscle. Not once. Who could really use that as a motivator? Yes, I notice a direct benefit when I’m training regularly, and I notice it’s harder when I’m not, but there’s a difference between the reason I train, and the benefits of training. And when I was chasing the thinness fantasy, I was at my most miserable at the gym, and I’m surprised by how long I was able to keep it going. But after starting to see through the propaganda and starting to let that shit go, and identifying that all exercise is good for you as long as you’re not screwing yourself up over it, yes – now it’s all much more enjoyable, and much more beneficial. But thanks for the space to ramble, and for reading! I like what you wrote, and I too have despaired about Michelle Bridges’ articles before…

  2. jodieahp says:

    Hey Chris! Thanks for taking the time to comment – I enjoyed reading your thoughts 🙂

    I love what you said about exercise being rewarding or satisfying. That’s such a great way to think about it. Although I love all the health benefits of exercise, like you improving my bone mineral density or decreasing my cardiovascular risk factors are my biggest motivators.

    Always enjoying hearing your thoughts.

    P.S. I love board games too!

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