Stop Exercising to Lose Weight

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By Rachele M. Pojednic, Ed.M, M.S.

Exercise has forever been the go-to torture regimen for people trying to lose weight. It’s typically an acrimonious chore or insufferable extra in an already long day. More and more often, exercise requires a self-demoralizing offensive into a meat market filled with coveted six-packs and lavish hand-wash-only spandex. And in the end, it rarely works. A recent study showed that the probability of obese people attaining normal weight was 1 in 210 for men and 1 in 124 for women.

Which is why people don’t do it. And if they do, they usually hate it. And then they stop. Because, for them, exercise has become just a necessary evil to drop a few pounds.

We know they stop because at any given time, only 20 percent of Americans are getting the recommended amount of exercise. That means 80% of adults are not getting even 30 minutes of exercise in their day (…and walking counts).

The fact that people hate exercise isn’t particularly shocking news. Since the dawn of love-handles, physical activity has been perceived as punishment for being overweight. Doctors shake their finger at chubby patients and tell them to go to the gym. Yet, the fitness industry is filled with scantily clad instructors and trainers, flaunting unattainable physiques, shaming the plus-sized masses into seclusion. Corporations fill the airwaves with muscled sweaty bodies, taunting stronger, better, faster, harder. It turns out that’s not doing anyone any good.

But, what if we dropped the weight loss angle? What if we just started moving around because it made us feel good? Imagine what would happen if we stopped looking at exercise as a part of the grind and started looking at it as a moment of the day that just makes us feel great? No hefty baggage attached.

In that spirit of wellbeing – not weight loss – here are five reasons to exercise that have absolutely nothing to do with dropping pounds:

1. Because it feels good right now: Exercising has a way of making you feel better in this exact minute. Right now.

2. You get a moment of ultimate control: When you choose your exercise, you are in control. Nobody else gets to decide. Among frenetic societal pressures that pull us in a million directions all day, you get to call this one. Not your boss, or your girlfriend, or your mother. Just you.

3. Movement helps dial down the stress needle: Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. We live in a world where stress rules our minds. Exercise is one of the few truly effective strategies to get out of our heads, allowing us to reengage with a calmer, more directed, self.

4. Exercise makes you smarter: Not only are you smarter right after you exercise, but overall fitness is also associated with increased thinking capacity and brain health in the long term.

5. We all need a little “me time”: Our days are filled to the overflowing brink. Family responsibilities, social engagements, professional obligations. We hardly ever take moments to reconnect with ourselves anymore. Exercise – whether it’s gardening, walking the dog, painting houses, throwing weights around or running speed intervals – is one simple way to spend a little more time with yourself.

Exercise should never be a chore, a punishment, or a moment of shame. It should be a time to clear your head and feel good — feel GREAT — right now. If losing weight is a side effect, it’s a bonus. And even if you exercise everyday and still don’t drop those pounds, you’re still better off being the most fit and happy you can be…spandex be damned.

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