What if I Hate Exercise?

Angry FrustratedI got this e-mail today:  “Dear Ragen,  I hate exercise – like I seriously hate it.  I know that research shows that there are a lot of benefits but the thought of spending hours in the gym just sounds miserable.  Should I just suck it up?  What if I hate exercise?  Do you think I should do it anyway?”

This is a question I get a lot.  First, there is a mistaken notion out there that because I talk about my life as a fathlete and I talk about what the research says about fitness, that I am “promoting” exercise or I think that people “should” exercise.  Sometimes this happens because I haven’t written things as clearly as I should have, sometimes I think it’s because people have issues around exercise and just seeing discussion about it triggers them which is totally understandable given how much it gets shoved down our throats and the horrible experiences many of us have had (President’s Physical Fitness Test – I’m looking at you.)  Let me take this opportunity to clarify – I do not care if anyone else exercises. I am fully aware that there are people who don’t enjoy exercise, my partner is one of them, and I have no judgment about it at all.

The short version of why I don’t care is that the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not exercise dependent, and other people’s prioritization of their health and the path they choose to get there are none of my, or anyone else’s business. The long version can be found here.

So if you hate to exercise, that’s completely cool and understandable, lots of people do.  Even if exercise has health benefits, that doesn’t mean that anyone is required to do it, or that exercising creates some sort of health guarantee wherein you are now immortal unless you get hit by a bus- that’s just not the case.  Besides, there are lots of things that are shown to improve our odds for health and we aren’t all obligated to do any of them. When we insist that people “owe” society healthy habits it very quickly becomes a slippery slope.  If we “owe” society exercise do we also owe it 8 hours of sleep a night?  A vegan diet?  A paleo diet?  To quit drinking? To not go skiing or play soccer or anything else that could get us hurt?  Who gets to make these mandates?  I recommend that people not try to tell others how to live unless they are super excited about someone else telling them how to live.

The reason I talk about the research around fitness is that I believe we are constantly lied to and I think we have the right to review the research ourselves. We are told that exercise will lead to weight loss when the research suggests no such thing.  Lied to that exercise won’t make us healthier unless it makes us thinner.  Lied to that we have to do hours of specific things in order to get benefit from it.  Those things aren’t true – the research shows that about 30 minutes of moderate activity about 5 days a week can have many health benefits for many people.  While that’s true, it doesn’t mean that we owe anybody exercise, and, again, it doesn’t give any guarantees when it comes to health.

So back to the original question:  If you hate exercise, you have lots of choices.  One choice is just not to do it.  Another option is that maybe you decide that you believe what the research says about the health benefits and you want those benefits so you find some forms of movement that you hate less than other forms of movement and do them.  You may believe what the research says and choose not to exercise.  You may decide that you think the research is crap.

Maybe you get a local pharmacy or clinic to take a baseline of your metabolic numbers, do the movement for a couple months and then see if there’s any change in how you feel or your numbers.  Maybe you work toward a specific goal (picking up a grand kid, walking to the mailbox.)  If you and exercise had a messy break-up, you can try to kiss and make-up.  Or not.  All the choices are yours and none of those choices are anyone else’s business.

I also wish people would stop encouraging us to set unrealistic goals.  I think that way too many athletes think that everyone must feel like them – since they love to exercise everyone else can learn to love it too!  I think that’s bullshit. I, for example, hate long distance running.  I’ve heard people talk about getting a “runner’s high” but the only runner’s high I ever get is when I get to stop running.

The dancers in More Cabaret, of which I am the director, discussed doing a 5k as a team bonding exercise.  I agreed to do it.  My realistic goal is that I will have fun with my teammates, complete the 5k, and be awarded a t-shirt (which they will not have in my size, giving me the opportunity for activism).  This is something that I can accomplish.  I do not have a goal of learning to love running – I’ve done a lot of it and since I still hate it, I choose to face the fact that it’s probably not in the cards for me.  The fact that some people love running does not indicate that I, or anyone else, must be able to love it.

If you hate exercise and you decide to do it anyway, you can try to make it suck less by picking activities you don’t hate (gardening? dancing in your living room?  video game that incorporates movement? window shopping?), changing activities frequently, playing music, watching televison, reading a book, talking on the phone (when I do flexibility training I often do several of those things at the same time to try to stave off the boredom) but you may never learn to love exercise, and what you choose to do about that is your business and nobody else’s.

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46 thoughts on “What if I Hate Exercise?

  1. I’m with the asker. I hate exercise too. But I love how I feel when I’m done, so I do it. My body loves how it feels. It’s just my brain saying, “EEEAAAAAHRRGH!”

    So just tell my brain to shut up and deal with it. I also don’t want to eat my veggies, brush my teeth, get up and clean the house, deal with my screamy 3-yo, or do any other grown-up stuff sometimes, but I do it.

    I’m not healthy if I don’t exercise, mentally or physically. My opinion of myself goes down, and my emotional state declines. So I do it because it’s healthy for me. And my goal isn’t anything other than to feel good. Losing weight would be an unintentional by-product…I’m mostly in it to sweat out the toxins, feel powerful, and help my heart stay strong. And to keep my joints loosened up because years of playing the violin have given me osteo-arthritis in my hands, elbows, shoulders, and back. Not great, but I can do something about it, so I do.

  2. The whole “I love it so everyone else must love it too” drives me up the wall. My mom has been telling me for years that I should go take walks. Actually, I had a related conversation with a friend this weekend (she didn’t say “you should walk” but she’s a hiker and we had to walk a lot to get to the thing we planned to do, which meant a lot of the time she was walking ten or twenty feet in front of me). I hate walking. I mean, not as a mode of transportation, but as a “thing to do”, taking a walk is about the most boring thing I can think of. And because “taking a walk” is so generally accepted as a good/fun/worthwhile thing to do, I sometimes find myself trying to defend my OPINION of not enjoying taking a walk. Gah.

    1. You know what, Blue Meeple? Just because something is popular doesn’t obligate you to like it or to explain to anyone on the planet why you don’t like it.

      Me? I love to walk. It makes me feel great, both physically and mentally. On the other hand, you can’t pay me enough to run anywhere for any reason. And I break out in mental hives at the mere thought of taking an exercise class in anything at all. What’s more, I fucking hate mushrooms. That’s one I find myself having to defend a lot, for some reason. Yes, I’ve tried lots of kinds. Yes, I’ve had them dozens of different ways. I DON’T WANT TO EAT THEM. Pass me something leafy and green instead and don’t try to hide the fungus in my food because I WILL notice it, thank you very much.

      We all hate something popular, and it’s more than okay. It’s part of what makes us who we are.

      So you have the support of this walking fanatic not to love the form of movement that I enjoy, for what it’s worth. And if you decide that what you love more than anything in the world is an aerobics class, I’ll be happy for you… and quietly be glad it isn’t me taking that class.

      You’re you. I’m me. It doesn’t make either of us better or worse to have a different take on a particular activity or food. But it does make the word more interesting that not everyone likes all the same things.

      I’m very much in favor of interesting.

      1. Mmmm… mushrooms… suit yourself! More for me!

        Blue Meeple: I end up walking in front of the people I’m with if I’m not careful. I try to pay attention but get distracted sometimes–usually if I’m in a group that also includes some fast walkers. I think it’s inconsiderate, but I accidentally do it anyway. Tell your friend I said, “Pay attention!” (if you want)

  3. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/30/can-exercise-be-bad-for-you/


    “By analyzing data from six rigorous exercise studies involving 1,687 people, the group found that about 10 percent actually got worse on at least one of the measures related to heart disease: blood pressure and levels of insulin, HDL cholesterol or triglycerides. About 7 percent got worse on at least two measures. And the researchers say they do not know why.”


    “The problem with studies of exercise and health, researchers point out, is that while they often measure things like blood pressure or insulin levels, they do not follow people long enough to see if improvements translate into fewer heart attacks or longer lives. Instead, researchers infer that such changes lead to better outcomes — something that may or may not be true.

    Some critics have noted that there is no indication that those who had what Dr. Bouchard is calling an adverse response to exercise actually had more heart attacks or other bad health outcomes. But Dr. Bouchard said if people wanted to use changes in risk factors to infer that those who exercise are healthier, they could not then turn around and say there is no evidence of harm when the risk factor changes go in the wrong direction.”

    I’ve wondered whether there’s a corelation between the blood markers getting worse and not liking exercise and/or not feeling better from exercising.

    1. YES. HA.
      My conclusion is that each person not only has the right to chose what they do with their bodies, but that each body has different needs and NO ONE but NO ONE will know what those particular needs may be with the possible exception of the person to whom the body belongs. My cousin has always been a milk fiend. To this day, when he comes home from college for a weekend, I can tell because there is no milk in the refrigerator to put in my grandmother’s cereal. Turns out, his body has specific medical needs for more nutrients that milk specifically provides. What do you know, his body was telling him what he needed.
      I do not get the endorphin high I hear about when it comes to exercising. When I force myself to exercise for the sake of exercise, I just feel like shit afterward. Even when I don’t push myself to do the Curves circuit too hard too fast. Even when I make sure I’ve eaten and hydrated first. I still tend to get light headed and feel shitty. It’s just not fun. One of the beautiful things about finding Reagan’s blog, HAES is the recommendation to find movement that brings me joy. So pushing my grandmother’s wheelchair around the neighborhood probably isn’t going to make me smaller, or impress anyone who wants to know about my exercise efforts. (I’m looking at you, daddy.) When it gets into the hot months of Texas summer I probably will be moving less because it’s not joyful to fry and I don’t have the time or drive to look into indoor fun movement. MAYBE JUST MAYBE the lack of fun or joy is indicating something about what is best for my body. Huh? Huh?

  4. It’s definitely everyone’s own choice. I do it because it staves off depression for me. And that might not be the case for other people. Just because that’s the benefit I derive doesn’t mean that other folks will benefit in exactly the same way.

    At the gym I refuse to join any of their group challenges involving weight loss because I don’t believe that is the purpose of going to the gym. Especially not for me.

  5. Not that this is the case here, but for a long time I was under the impression that it’s not “proper” exercise if you’re not suffering. Gardening is exercise. Going out to a club and dancing is exercise. Foot or bike commuting is exercise. Playing a friendly game of tennis is exercise. Taking a rock climbing class is exercise. Exercise 100% doesn’t have to be going to a gym and hopping on a treadmill. Once I figured that out, I became a lot friendlier to the whole idea.

    1. That’s probably the second most common myth about exercise right after ‘you WILL lose weight if only you exercise hard enough and long enough.’

      It helped me a lot when the penny dropped and I realized that if I was moving, I was getting exercise, even if it was something I enjoyed doing. Plus things I hate like taking out the garbage? I find it easier to accept them if I’m multitasking and getting my exercise as well as ridding the house of stink. Two halos for one unpleasant task? Sign me up! LOL!

      But I also refuse to feel bad about those days once in a while when I spend the whole day on the sofa watching bad movies. There are times when I need that mentally, and so I do it.

      1. Doctors help perpetuate the idea that exercise only counts if you are in a gym or suffering. I have mentioned before about my friend who cleans houses for a living. She quickly put on weight after her dad died. She thought it was from stress but thyroid issues run in the family and she wanted to make sure she was ok. She went to the doctor who refused to run a thyroid panel and told her she’d do well to eat less and exercise more (without knowing her habits at all). My friend told the doc she cleans houses for a living. She works five days a week and is moving all day. The doctor actually told her that didn’t matter, she needed to be doing aerobic activity.

        1. One summer, I was setting up a new lab space, which meant I spent all day climbing on stuff and moving around heavy boxes. I also walked a mile and a half two and from work. My doctor still insisted that I go to the gym. So then I fired that doctor and found a new one. She gives me a little crap about not getting enough *cardiovascular* exercise, but that’s probably legitimate crap.

        2. has that doctor ever cleaned houses? That IS aerobic activity! Reminds me of when I was canvassing, we walked in the heat for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week and when I went to the doctor for a knee injury (from falling off of a curb) I was told I needed to exercise more so these injuries wouldn’t happen anymore. I told the doctor I’ll trade him jobs for a day and then we’ll talk about exercise.

  6. There are definitely times I don’t like to exercise or particularly feel like it. Now is one of them; can you feel the dawdling coming through the computer? I do it anyway, for my own reasons. One of them is that I suffer from major depression; it runs in my family, and some of my relatives have it so badly that they’re on disability for it. Exercise is medicine for depression; I don’t like taking my pills either, but the effects of not taking my meds are even worse. Second, I like being a strong badass; I like showing up people who don’t think I can move/lift something because I’m female. The thing is, that’s me, not everyone else. If someone else doesn’t have depression, or doesn’t feel like being Wonder Woman, or just has other things to do, that’s perfectly cool.

    1. I have depression, have had it most of my life. I’ve been told that exercise is a key in managing it. I don’t notice any change in my mood when I’m *exercising* – except for the misery when I’m actually doing it.
      Different medicines work differently on different depressed patients, even in pill form.

  7. THANK YOU, Ragen, for writing about this! It’s almost anathema to admit that you don’t like to exercise these days. I don’t hate moving my body, but I do hate most traditional forms of exercise. I find running to be one of the most soul-crushing activities available (and I ran cross country for a while, so it’s not like I didn’t give it a fair chance), but I love dancing and my partner and I have recently taken up laser tag. But of course, conventional wisdom holds that if you weren’t miserable during your exercise to “cancel out” whatever you ate, then you didn’t “really” exercise (my parents are constantly telling me that dancing ain’t exercise; I can’t wait to hear their opinions on laser tag!)

    Oh, and one thing I’d love to get your opinion on: Does anyone else find cooking a form of exercise? I adore cooking and I find the process to be mildly strenuous, what with running around, lifting things, chopping stuff, putting out small grease fires …

    1. (raises hands)

      All that chopping and stirring is using muscles. Oh, and if you’re lucky enough to own a piece or two of Le Creuset (as I do) hauling that out of the cupboard and lifting it to the stove is most certainly strength training.

      People are often surprised to feel how strong my hands are. I tell them it comes from kneading dough and controlling great big, sharp knives.

      Homemade pasta is my latest obsession, and all that kneading and rolling (with a rolling pin since I don’t have a pasta maker) is just getting me a better workout as well as delicious homemade ravioli.

      1. Ooh, I forgot about kneading. That’s a biggie too! I challenge anyone who claims that kneading a solid hunk of dough ain’t exercise.

  8. My issue is with the extreme types who do the body building, etc. That used to be a thing for hobbyist. Not everyone was expected to spend all their time lifting. But now there is this attitude that if you aren’t trying to sculpt your body, you are lazy and less than. I can run 5ks, do yoga daily and kick box for fun but because I’m not lifting weights and trying to look like a body builder, none of it matters.

    I’m sorry but I have better things to do than spend all my time focusing on my body. I do enjoy exercise. I do all the things I just listed. But I hate lifting and I’m not going to put in the time it takes to become toned like body builder. I’m not interested. But that doesn’t make me lazy or less than.

    I’m so tired of the “inspirational” posts on FB about how you can’t change without effort, etc and it always shows some mostly naked body builder. Ugh!!

  9. I hate exercise because it is boring. Sure, I could watch television and exercise, but that is boring. I cannot watch television, crochet, and exercise, or watch television, play World of Warcraft, and exercise, and thus it gets pushed aside. I LOVED the Wii “Walk it Out” before I beat it twice. My dearest wish is for someone to hook up a balance board to a world as big as World of Warcraft and with as much to do. I wouldn’t even care if it took me a long time to walk from Northridge Abbey to Goldshire because each step = one step. It would be awesome and I would get tons of exercise. Maybe I will be a totally fit grandma one day when that level of stimulation exists… (and no I can’t go outside, there is no climate control and also people out there).

    1. If you can find a gym that has Expresso bikes, you might really enjoy those. They include a game where you chase dragons and collect coins, and your pedaling and steering controls how you move around in the world. Going up hills or through rough terrain actually changes the resistance. It’s really neat. And yet, my gym got rid of them, which makes me sad.

    2. Ha! We are big time gamers in this house and I’ve said several times I wish we could actually go into the game while playing. I’d get more than my fair share of exercise. We used to play a lot of LOTRO but now we are on Guild Wars 2. With all the running and battling, yeah I’d be exhausted but so happy.

      I actually do enjoy running but have bursitis in my hips and when I run it acts up something terrible and then I can’t even walk. But for awhile I had the app Zombies, Run! on my phone. I’d play that while running. I would totally get into it too. I’d forget I was on the treadmill and actually picture myself running from zombies, collecting supplies, etc. lol

      There are so many gamers, if they’d concentrate on expanding that technology, exercise would no longer be an issue. lol

      1. Thirding the idea of wishing there were some way to control WoW via body movement.

        There have actually been some things people have tried to put together using the Kinect where you use gestures for spellcasting and such.

  10. This is all great stuff. I think another option for people who hate exercise, IF they want to try finding ways to move more for their health, is to separate what they’re trying to achieve from the concept of exercise as a whole.

    For most of my childhood and teenage years, I thought exercise meant putting a Jane Fonda video in the tape player and following the exercises, or going to the gym and using the machinery there, or running/cycling/jogging where the point was specifically the movement of the body. Somehow, I managed to convince myself that it didn’t count as exercise unless the point was specifically about exercising.

    It took a while before I realised that exercise could also mean…

    The hour I spent that morning turning over the soil on my nan’s allotment, digging the last season’s remaining potatoes and preparing the soil for the next planting.

    Spending an afternoon hauling furniture back and forth and assembling equipment for an art class, carrying the tables, props, easels and furniture back afterwards, and cleaning the rented hall down at the end,

    Playing at the swimming pool with my nieces, having underwater swimming contests with them and chasing them through the water.

    I’ve been able to add exercise to my life much more easily, now. For example, I love foraging for wild foods and beach-combing for interesting rocks, driftwood and shells. And enjoying those hobbies just happens to involve a long walk, with optional uneven terrain and climbing depending on where I choose to go and what I choose to forage for. But I don’t think of it as “getting exercise”. I’m just going out and bringing home tasty herbs, fruit and mushrooms for dinner. And on days when I want to forage but don’t have much energy, I just stick to foraging in urban areas or taking a plant identification book and a notepad out to make notes of stuff I can forage on a day when I’m feeling more energetic.

    No one, NO ONE is obligated to exercise, but IF you want to exercise and struggle to find forms of exercise you enjoy, re=framing what you see as exercise might help.

  11. Thankfully my gynecologist doesn’t really push much on me, even though I’ve gained weight. He generally just asks me about how much I exercise and gives me the 30 minutes a day/5 days a week suggestion. I hate cardio a lot but I love things like yoga and walking so I do what I love, not what other people think I should do. My underpants, after all. 🙂

  12. You know, I truly believe that a lot of people only hate exercise because they’ve been taught that exercise should be penance for the things that you eat, rather than joyful movement. That if you’re not sweating bullets and in pain, if you’re not suffering through the gym routine and comparing yourself to other gym goers, you’re just not exercising properly. BULLOCKS, I say!

    For many years I hated exercise because, like most fat kids, I had a horrible time in gym class and in my mind exercise what inherently linked to shame and pain. How wrong I was! For one, if you’re in pain, you’re definitely doing it wrong. For another, movement should be fun, not shameful. Do I hate running laps for the Physical Fitness Test? You better believe it! But, after years of warring with exercise and being disconnected from my body, I found there are types of movement I take joy in.

    For example, I love to ride my bicycle. I loved biking as a kid, but since I enjoyed it, it was a long time before it occurred to me that it actually “counted” as exercise. Now I ride my bike almost everyday and it makes me feel great! Another example: Even though for many years I was discouraged from dancing, since I’m “too big,” as an adult I’ve started taking zumba and hip-hop classes only to discover that, whether or not I’m any good at it, I LOVE to dance! And when I go to class and don’t worry about how I look, I have a fabulous time. I’ve been lucky that I’ve found classes that were size-positive, but I’m sure there are others out there.

    Joyful movement is different for everyone. My dad loves taking long walks in the evening and enjoying the stars. My mother is into yoga and reiki. Once we shed this idea that exercise is penance and take up the concept that it can be any kind of movement we find enjoyable, everything changes. So to the gal who wrote you, I would suspect that there are types of movement she enjoys– they probably don’t involve the gym, though! And if not, like you said Ragen, that’s OK too. No one is required to live their life by the standards of others.

    1. ‘Exercise,’ what a loaded word — brings back hours of tedium riding a stationary bike to nowhere in the gym. I remember the day I thought, ‘Hey, it’d be way more interesting if there was a video of road going by or something,’ and then suddenly the obvious occurred to me: ‘You know, they have REAL BIKES that do that.’ I don’t know when or why I forgot about bikes, somewhere around 14 or so — but I got a real bike and started riding it around the park… then joined a bike club in NYC that went on all these interesting city rides… lost my fear of traffic… began to commute daily by bike — what a rush! No cup of morning coffee gets my blood up the way biking does.

      Like you I also love to dance, and fuck ’em if they can’t take a fat girl blissfully dancing her head off. That’s the kind of movement I live for. There’s movement I don’t enjoy, running is completely out, I hate it and so do my knees. If it ain’t fun, it ain’t gonna happen. And likewise, this is going to be different for every person, and nobody should be forced or guilted into spending any amount of their life that they don’t love.

  13. Reblogged this on Darswords and commented:
    I recently noticed something about myself while playing a hidden objects game. To get the objects you needed to proceed through the game you had to revisit places you’ve been before. I sighed a huge sigh and said aloud, “Why do I have to go all the way back there to get this done?” Epitome of laziness? I asked myself. It was just clicks of the mouse to get there. No exercise was involved. But the only reason I was playing a game was because I had no energy at all. I had no incentive to do anything as my fibromyalgia was flaring so badly that I was only one blanket away from crawling under the covers and crying. But I am still looking at how tasks in real life don’t get done because there are so many steps to getting to the real goal. Depression plays a part in this. “What’s the use?” I asked myself. It’s not as though it matters to anyone else.

    Then on Friday I got the diagnosis of diabetes and high cholesterol. Really? I am a vegetarian! Not a meat product goes in my mouth! And really, if you look at my family tree is it any surprise that I have it when everyone else did? I eat nothing like my forebears, high fat huge meals, tons of sugar. I rarely have sugar. So after some research I am finally giving up cheese and butter. I was nearly vegan before. Time to suck it up. But exercise?

    I find walking BORING AS HELL! I find exercise in gyms BORING AS HELL! When I think about it, I want childhood back. I want a playground made for grown-ups. I want to swing high while singing to the top of my lungs. I want to play hop-scotch or jump rope with friends. I want to sit for hours playing jacks. I might even enjoy getting good at swinging from the rings and hand ladders (whatever those things were called). Four square with friends. Playing hide and seek! If I must I’d like to garden, a little. But I live in an apartment. I’d love to gather twenty cents walk two miles with my brother to the pool and swim ten cents a session then walk the two miles home. That wasn’t exercise. That was fun. But then the swimmer’s ear took over one of my favorite sports. The cold water causes flares now. So what do I do? Virtual life. That seems too stressful and too much effort.

    Then I read the latest Dances With Fat and the comments her readers made. At least I am not alone in this journey. I am glad there are people who question the status quo.

    Please don’t lecture me. I will delete such comments. But if you can help me find a way to my better health in a pleasant way, I promise to look at it. I hope something sticks. I hope this penny gets me a bubblegum.

      1. I’m getting a bouncy castle for my 50th birthday in a few years. Don’t know how yet. But I’m gonna find one.

        Darsword: sounds like a BUSINESS PLAN. I would SO be there with you on that jungle gym and swingset!

        1. I’m so with you on this! I’ve been saying for years that if I win the lottery I’m going to build an adult-sized jungle gym. I miss recess! I miss climbing the rope ladders and sliding down the pole, swinging on the uneven bars and playing jungle gym tag.

  14. What excellent timing for this post! Last week I had a doctor appointment and had the usual discussion about losing weight/getting more exercise blahblahblah.

    My doctor kept insisting I would love walking, even though I mentioned that I never have in the past.

    I was down on myself for several hours for not being one of those people that ‘loves’ exercise.

    Then I thought, has anyone studied this? Looking online led me to this article:


    From studies by Dr. Ekkekakis:

    “The idea hinges on something called the “ventilatory threshold.” Normally when people breathe, they expel an amount of carbon dioxide that is equal to the amount of oxygen taken in. But beyond the ventilatory threshold, the release of carbon dioxide begins to exceed the body’s intake of oxygen. This excess release of carbon dioxide is a sign that the muscles have become more acidic, which the body finds stressful.”

    I looked up Dr. Ekkekakis and while his papers are very sciency, my interpretation is that if you have a fairly low ventilatory threshold (due to genetics and level of activity) then you will build up this acid in your muscles fairly quickly, your muscles will send out “I hate this” messages which your brain interprets as “This thing I am doing is unpleasant. I will stop it now and never do it again.”

    This threshold is not the same as the ‘talking while exercising’ theory.
    The threshold can be so low for some people that making dinner will cross the threshold. For people with a low threshold, an ordinary walk can be unpleasant enough that you don’t want to keep doing it.

    I bring this up not because I want to nag people into exercise, but because I have always been bothered by wanting the results while hating the process. Knowing there may be another factor at work in my body is reassuring to me. I’m going to try to keep my moving around on the low key side and see if I can rekindle the pleasure I remember from being a kid.

    Here is a link to Dr. Ekkekakis’ website:


    1. This is the best clue I’ve yet seen for why exercise sometimes brings on a depressive fit in me. And that was back when I was fairly healthy. These days, I’m trying to cope with severe lung disease which leaves me out of breath if I so much as go into the kitchen for a glass of water, a distance of maybe 8 short steps.

  15. Gosh Ragen, not only are your blog posts always topical and fantastically summarised, but your readers and their views and comments are always so intelligent and well spoken. Sometimes when logging on to read your latest, I look forward to Helena Handbaskets take on the matter as well 🙂 Everyone upthread has pointed out pretty much what I was going to say, my main point being the connotations that exercise has in society; that it must be penance/punishment/offsetting calories etc. Also I’m sure there are many of us who were pushed to exercise as kids due to parents trying to encourage weight loss. Me? I HATE exercise of the walking and running variety, I find it truly boring! I didn’t exercise at all for a few years and found myself feeling stiff on waking and shuffling about at times due to a lack of suppleness. I started going swimming and doing Aquafit which made my inner Pisces purr 🙂 Almost immediately I noticed a change in my body’s ability to move about more fluidly and less painfully. I then started BodyPump with the promise that you “barely move a metre in either direction” (I hate jumping and high impact stuff!) BodyPump makes me feel so powerful and strong each time I go, and the fat-friendly atmosphere of my community centre makes it a real pleasure for me to join in. To all people hating exercise who still want to incorporate a bit of movement into their lives, ask yourself what you hate about it and then look for ways you can move that are the opposite of the things you hate. ie hate the gym? cancel that membership and go rent a kayak for an hour, or see if you enjoy just doing some stretching at home 🙂
    In saying all of that, if you don’t like exercise and don’t want to move at all, you shouldn’t do it just to appease others, as everyone who reads this blog knows, we are all the bosses of our own underpants! And it does suck to be an exercise hater amidst all those annoying Facebook “motivational” posters (thank goodness for the hide in newsfeed option, amirite?!) Anyway, whew! long comment over, I just had to weigh in on this one as its always been a big thing for me!
    Thanks again Ragen and the followers that birng hteir excellent viewpoints to this blog!

  16. I had this conversation with my boyfriend the other day. I’ve been having some health issues, and he thought maybe a little exercise would help me feel better (he was trying to be helpful, not be an ass). I asked him what he thought watching an eight month old all day was, he reconsidered and said maybe I needed rest lol.

    I also hate running. I’ve tried it, and I just don’t like it. I love to walk, but running just makes me feel icky. I like yoga and things that are more calming. I have anxiety issues, so doing things that wind me up just makes my anxiety worse. I prefer to try and calm myself through movement.

  17. I’ll be honest, I hate to run, too. I’m in the military; I’ve had plenty of opportunity to “get used to it” and push through the discomfort. After 3 months of running every single day, I can officially say that running sucks for me. (I recently found out — after 4 years of barely passing PT tests — that I have an inflammation disorder in my ribcage that makes it nearly impossible to get enough oxygen when I run. So now I get to do my PT tests on an elliptical machine instead.)

    What I always tell people is that the best exercise is the exercise you enjoy doing. Zumba, ballroom dance, cycling/spinning, yoga, weights, swimming, water aerobics, gardening, cleaning house, canoeing — if you like it and it involves more activity than sitting on a couch, it’s exercise. Move how you love and love what moves you and you can’t go wrong — your body is the best adviser on what it needs from you and what you need from it.

  18. I hated exercise until I tried weight training. That was something I stuck with. Though I never found it fun, exactly, I enjoyed seeing progress, and it had a noticeable positive effect on my mood and how easy it was to do basic life tasks (like climbing stairs).

    I later came to realize it wasn’t that weight training was a better activity than what I’d tried before, it was that it was the first time I’d started an exercise program for some reason other than “I need to lose weight.” I went in with an open mind, hoping to get stronger, and it actually happened. But at that time, i viewed cardio exercise as something that I should do because I was fat, and it was almost a punishment, and it of course did not make me less fat. (Now, with a different attitude, my feelings towards it are completely different.)

  19. I hate running too! It’s boring and it hurts my shins. I also hate gyms and treadmills and videos — all the things we’re sold as “exercise” or a “work-out.”

    But — I do like to dance. I like to walk in pretty places. I like to rent a bike at the beach. I like to swim in pools and the ocean. I think the more we’re sold the “boot camp” “no pain, no gain” version of exercise, the more people are led to think they don’t like it. Who DOES like walking on a treadmill? It’s so boring most people have to watch TV to stand it.

    So, maybe you don’t like to “work out,” but you might like going to an art museum in comfortable shoes and walking through the galleries and the gardens around it. Or you might like paddling a kayak on a lake with binoculars along so you can watch birds. Or doing yoga or Frisbee golf, or whatever. And if you don’t, it’s still OK — but I think we’re sold exercise as a bitter pill so much, that many people get turned off of how genuinely good it feels to go outside and move around.

  20. I dislike the words “exercise”, “work out” and “fitness”. They’ve been shoved down my throat as penances or cures for fatness. Also, “fitness” reminds me of social darwinism. “Movement” sounds better. Not so much cultural and political baggage.

    I swim, mostly to preserve mobility in my bad hip. It’s the one kind of movement that neither hurts my joints nor makes me sweat. I think of swimming as physical therapy or self-care.

  21. I don’t exactly like or dislike exercise in general. Most of the exercise I do is stuff that I like, but not as much as I like reading (books or blogs) or watching movies or playing video games. But it makes me feel better and gives me more energy, so it makes it more enjoyable when I am reading etc. Not to mention that reading is more enjoyable when your dog is tired and has gone for a walk or run, and not full of energy and pestering you!

  22. I love swimming, riding a bike, and walking, but I never fit the definition of “fit” although people tend to assume I work out all the time because I’m thin. However, running and heavy lifting causes me excruciating pain (I even felt pressure in my chest after carrying my backpack full of crap) but my dad said it’s because I never “made an effort” to build strength. It’s never fair to assume things about someone and judge them for what their bodies look like or what they are or aren’t capable of. This is my first comment, so please know I speak as an ally.

    1. “It’s never fair to assume things about someone and judge them for what their bodies look like or what they are or aren’t capable of.”

      This statement reminded me of a woman I met who looked thin and healthy and actually had lung damage from TB. She did work out in an effort to maximize the working part of her lungs, but that was a good lesson to me in not really knowing someone based on what they look like.

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