by Bridget Shannon
September 4, 2012

Do you hit the gym each morning to keep osteoporosis at bay? Do you hop on your bike instead of getting into your car to go to work, hoping you’ll avoid heart disease somewhere down the line?

In a recent article in the New York Times, researchers suggest that people will not commit to exercise if its benefits are distant or theoretical. “Feeling happy and less stressed is more motivating than not getting heart disease or cancer, maybe, someday in the future,” said research investigator Michelle L. Segar.

While many people choose to exercise for weight loss, studies have proven that without major changes in eating habits, an increase in physical activity is only somewhat effective. It’s also not very sustainable; people begin to abandon exercise when they don’t see immediate results. Plus, who wants to go to the gym when it feels like a form of punishment for not reaching your goals? The negativity is defeating.

So if weight loss and other health benefits are less effective in motivating people to exercise, what will get them moving? Well-being and happiness, experts suggest. “People who say they exercise for its benefits to quality of life exercise more over the course of a year than those who say they value exercise for its health benefits,” said Dr. Segar.

Making physical activity something you enjoy as a natural part of daily life, rather than something to squeeze in, is also important. This could be as simple as taking a family walk with your spouse or kids after dinner (see more of our family activity ideas), or taking a fun hip-hop or salsa dance class with a friend. Even small amounts of exercise can enhance your well-being. For more ideas on how to enjoy exercise, see what our Facebook community had to say! Some of their suggestions include:

  • Listen to music while you work out that pumps you up and inspires you
  • Get outside and take in the physical beauty of your surroundings
  • Participate in team sports – it’s social and your team is counting on you!
  • Sign up for a race – it gives you a goal to work towards and the sense of accomplishment when you achieve it is tremendous!

By choosing a form of exercise that you enjoy, you’re more likely to maintain a regular routine. Which type of workout makes you feel energized, less stressed, and downright happy? Some people prefer the treadmill while others enjoy the great outdoors. You’ll never know which exercise is best for you until you try it, so mix it up once in awhile.

How do you find ways to exercise regularly so that it’s something you enjoy?