Do Exercises That Make You Happy
Let me ask you a question. Why do you exercise?
No not “why should someone exercise”. I mean why do YOU exercise?
What’s your motivation? Is it to look good? Is it to prove something to yourself or others? Is it competition? Is it to be healthy?
We Southern Californians are obsessed with fitness. And why wouldn’t we be? We like to stay healthy. We like to look good. The beach is right down the street and it’s always sunny. Getting a workout in is a part of everyone’s routine just like eating lunch and brushing your teeth.
It’s great that we’re all working out. But here in the OC we can get so caught up in burning calories that we completely overlook the intention behind our exercise. As if a person’s emotional and psychological approach to exercise didn’t matter as long as they’re looking good. This obsession with esthetics and brutal workouts has brought us CrossFit “The Sport of Fitness”, high intensity boot camps like Orange Theory, and physique competitions bigger than ever before.
But deep down, is the point of exercise really a medal, a PR on your workout, six pack abs or a number of calories burned? There’s nothing wrong with these things! But when we’re honest with ourselves, we can agree that these are all secondary goals.
So what’s the PRIMARY goal of exercise? It’s really simple. The primary goal should be to do exercises that make you happy.
We move and play because these are fundamental expressions of what it is to be human. Movement is a way in which we can engage with our life and relationships with more energy, health, vitality, and connectedness. THAT’s the primary goal of exercise!
The goal is to exercise to live. But there are those our there who have it backwards; they’re living to exercise. When we put secondary goals like physique and achievement over the primary goal of being happy then our health suffers.
If we prioritize exercise itself over the things it’s supposed to be promoting then it can actually interfere with little, slightly important things like health and happiness.
So I’d like to propose a new standard by which to measure our exercise:
To what extent does your exercise make you happy? Both DURING exercise and AFTER exercise.
Happy in terms of the activity itself.
Do you hate your workouts? Then you should probably be doing something else. There are an infinite number of ways to get your physical activity in and no one is perfect for everyone. Maybe your partner loves running but you don’t. That’s fine, go try yoga. Or take a dance class. Or try weightlifting.
If your workout makes you miserable, find something that you actually enjoy!
Happy in terms of my physical health.
If you prioritize exercise over the health it’s supposed to promote then your health can actually suffer. Just look at extreme endurance athletes who develop heart arrhythmias, physique competitors on extreme diets (just look at this pre contest diet to get “shredded in 6 days”), or Crossfitters who are tearing pecs and developing rhabdomyolysis.
These are extreme examples but they make a valid point. Health is your most important asset. Competition and challenge are good but they should always be considered in relation to what’s really important, your happiness! I have yet to find a patient who says that their shin splints really make them happy.
Happy in terms of my relational health.
Does exercise get in the way of the relationships that matter most to you? Are you on an ultra-restrictive diet that interferes with your social life? Sure, those extra workouts and that crazy diet might get you closer to a six pack but will that six pack actually make you happy? Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to look good and that’s an absolutely valid secondary goal. But keep it in perspective. If you’ve worked out every day this week then take a rest day and have a bowl of ice cream with your family.
Happy in terms of my mental health.
Are you working out in a way that promotes self-acceptance, self-love, and positive self-esteem? Or are you judging and comparing yourself to others? If your workout is about looking like someone on instagram or motivated by guilt then it’s time to reframe your mindset. Find an activity that you love doing and do it for YOU. Why? Push yourself as hard as you’d like, but never forget that at the end of the day your happiness is what counts.
Work out hard. Challenge yourself. But at the end of the day your happiness and health are more important than anything external.
We love working out. But working out should be a means to and an expression of loving ourselves. Of living our happiest and most fulfilled life. If your current exercise program isn’t supporting your happiness then it’s time to change something. Maybe it’s just changing our mindset. Maybe it’s finding a new activity. Maybe it’s starting to exercise at all.
If pain or uncertainty are limiting you from engaging in and exercise or activity that would make you happier, come talk to us. Whether it’s mountain biking, backpacking, or playing with your grandkids are goal is to empower you with the physical capacity to live your best life.
Here’s to YOUR health and YOUR happiness!
Movement is Health,
Dr. Christian Barney D.C., D.A.B.C.O., C.C.S.P., ART
How can Performance Health & Wellness help you?
- Active Release Technique (ART) to the soft tissue structures to restore normal function, decrease stress to the injured area, reduce scar tissue, and promote healing;
- Stretching and Exercises to prevent condition from returning;
- Chiropractic adjustments to restore proper motion;
- Cold laser to help reduce inflammation;
- Kinesio taping to allow an athlete to continue to particpate in his sport plus augments the treatment.
- Functional medicine with extensive nutritional based consultation, individualized nutrition programs.