One Problem with Exercise Programs

… Is that they’re called exercise programs. Given a choice between engaging in an exercise program and watching American Idol while eating popcorn, who wouldn’t choose the latter? It’s so much easier.

Exercise sounds like work. And we call it work: We go to work, then we go workout. Except we don’t, most of us. We just go to work, then we go get drunk or eat nachos or hang around the house watching Simon Cowell say mean (albeit true) things to aspiring young singers. And “program” sounds like a regiment, something the military might do.

Thus an exercise program is a form of work, something you “have to” do because you don’t want to get diabetes like your mother or soft around the middle like your father. Something you do (or should do) because it’s good for you, like tofu.

What’s your story? Is it a story of exercise programs started and stopped, tried and failed? Does it involve dusty home exercise equipment, lapsed gym memberships, futile classes, forgotten New Years resolutions – and an ultimate sense of failure, even self-loathing?

This need not continue.

Ditch the exercise program. Learn to dance instead. Remember what it’s like to toss a ball off a chimney and catch it, over and over again, with one hand, then the other, while standing on one foot, or while a friend catches every other rebound. Make up games.

Move because you love to move. Trust me, you do love to move, though you may forget this. Move in ways you love to move, or might love to move, if you gave yourself a chance. Experiment with games, activities, dances, until you discover those ways you love to move, then do those things – in a variety of ways, to keep it fresh and interesting.

Don’t think of it as an exercise program. Think of it as going for a walk, because the moon is full and shining down right there, on your neighborhood!

Think of it as dancing because Lee Ann Womack sings, “If you get a chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”

I hope you dance too. I hope you move – not because it’s good for you, but because it’s who you are. We don’t need more exercise programs. We need more people who are curious about movement, who dare to move, who trust that if they approach movement with a willingness to experiment, they’ll eventually remember what all children know: we were born to move.

Mariah Burton Nelson

American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation

MNelson@aahperd.org

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One Response to “One Problem with Exercise Programs”

  1. waistloss Says:

    I’ve kinda coined the term “playout” for what we do. Whether it’s stick wrestling or dumbell golf, we play instead of work. Checkout some of the “playouts” on my site when you get a chance.


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