How to fit exercise into your schedule

Last week, I discussed how exercise is crucial for good health.

Now let’s figure out a way to help you fit exercise into your busy schedule. At the same time, we can make exercise an enjoyable activity that does wonders for your health.

To overcome your reluctance to exercise, you have to understand the psychology of exercise and grasp how to restructure your attitude toward physical activity in order to make it an irresistible part of your day.

The Appeal Of Exercise

Let me explore with you the underlying motives that incite people to exercise.

Are you the type of person who can consistently exercise simply because you know it is the best thing for your overall health? Some folks do this, but most start and then give up exercising within a short time. A vague desire for better health usually is not sufficient reason to keep on exercising.

Exercise is more alluring if the activity actually causes you to feel good.

Exercise is more attractive if it makes you feel fit, strong, energetic, thin, sexy, confident in yourself, proud of yourself, able to fall sleep quickly at bedtime, etc. As you might expect, a two-year study of 500 female runners found that those who enjoyed the activity they did in their exercise program were far more likely to continue for a longer period of time than those who did it only because they felt it was the right thing to do. [1]

Researchers have looked at other factors that enhance enjoyment of exercise. A study [2] of 261 women involved in aerobics discovered that when the women focused on developing skill and competence, they enjoyed the activity more than when they merely compared themselves with others in the class or viewed the aerobics as a type of competition. A similar study of 695 college students showed that their motivation for exercise could be boosted when they emphasized the value of the activity itself compared feeling an obligation to exercise. [3]

In addition to enjoying the activity itself, we know from other scientific studies on this subject that there are social motivators behind the desire to exercise, irrespective of age or gender. This was demonstrated in a study [4] reported in 2002 of 2,390 Belgians who answered questions about their exercise habits. In this research, motivations for exercise that originated in group exercises with a friend or several people ranked even higher than the motivations rooted in enjoyment of exercise itself.

It seems this social aspect turned the discomfort of their exercise into a leisure or sporting experience. That’s part of the genius of playing a team sport, right?

Why You Don’t Like To Exercise

Many people focus on the negatives that keep them from exercising.

The powerful negative, discouraging notions that can keep you from exercising include:

  1. You feel too tired or too busy.
  2. You are unsure about what exercise you should do or how to do it.
  3. You don’t experience the weight loss or improved health you expected.
  4. It hurts to exercise.
  5. Once before, you started and quit an exercise program and you don’t want to go through all that again.

Finding New Encouragement

One way to beat negative self-talk is to focus on how exercise can builds up your individual sense of self or purpose in life. Then, stay focused on how this value enhances your friendship (if you exercise with someone else), your health, your appearance, your ability to do well in competition (if doing a sport) or your ability to outperform your previous efforts.

You may need even more motivation than this. You may need to also feel completely different about exercise in order to get going on a program and keep doing it.

I suggest you probably must feel passion and enthusiasm for exercise, or else it just won’t happen.

Allow me to guide you through a thought and feeling process, a “visualization” that can help you succeed. This process is designed to shift your paradigm about exercise to one that can make it an irresistible part of your day.

Playtime

Consistent exercise is not only one of the secrets to having optimal health, but also to self-confidence and a great sex-life. What could be better?

To start creating exercise excitement, visualize yourself as a small child between the ages of 6 and 10. You can remember how you appeared in photographs from that age. Now see that you are smiling, laughing and playing carefree with your best friends somewhere outside.

Allow yourself to take a moment of reflection and visualize in your thoughts those favorite play places you used to have which might have been a field near your home, a park down the street or your favorite backyard.

Maybe you used to go camping or go to the beach. When you were doing an activity like hiking in the mountains or in traversing the snow on the ski slopes, you were carefree, at play and experiencing unparalleled great feelings.

Being in nature in those circumstances is great: the smell of flowers or grass; the feel of the wind and the sun; seeing trees, rocks and even bugs!

Allow yourself to feel and see what that small child (you) felt and saw for just a few moments. Remember how you would stay outside playing even when it was getting dark? You wanted to keep playing even though it was time for dinner. You felt the excitement of being with friends and being free. You were exercising while having the emotional passion of playtime.

That represents why I now call these types of physical activities “playtime” instead of exercise.

I want you to start referring to exercise as playtime, too.

Good Feelings

Now that you are older, it may require great music to help create a playtime mood. I use — and recommend — an iPod and ear buds so I can listen to my favorite feel-good tunes while I do playtime alone. When I’m with a friend or group experiencing playtime, I connect as much as possible and build upon the feeling of friendship. Remember that the feeling you enjoy will be the power behind your success.

My challenge to you is to retain this short visualization and the good feeling it can create and incorporate it into your playtime activity. Refer to and think of your workouts, group classes or personal activities as playtime activities.

Make sure you have 45 minutes three to four days each week planned into your schedule for playtime!

In my next article I’ll give you some ideas about what kinds of exercises to do to make it a better playtime that ever before.

Keep on feeling good,

Michael Cutler, M.D.
Easy Health Options


[1] Titze S, Stronegger W, Owen N. Prospective study of individual, social, and environmental predictors of physical activity: Women’s leisure running. Psychology of Sport and Exercise 2005;6(3):363–76.

[2] Boyd MP, Weinmann C, Yin Z. The relationship of physical self-perceptions and goal orientations to intrinsic motivation for exercise. Journal of Sport Behavior 2002;25(1):1–18.

[3] Simons J, Dewitte S, Lens W. “Don’t do it for me. Do it for yourself!” Stressing personal relevance enhances motivation in physical education. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 2003; 25(2):145–60.

[4] De Bourdeaudhuij I., Sallis J. Relative contribution of psychosocial variables to the explanation of physical activity in three population-based adult samples. Preventive Medicine 2002;34:279–88.

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Dr. Michael Cutler

By Dr. Michael Cutler

Dr. Michael Cutler is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine and is a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience. He serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems. Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and founder of the original Easy Health Options™ newsletter — an advisory on natural healing therapies and nutrients. His current practice is San Diego Integrative Medicine, near San Diego, California.