Exercise can be fun.
In fact, some folks argue that it’s better for you if is fun.
“Many people workout because the feel they have to,” says Corey Sinyai, a professional fitness trainer and Pilates instructor at Happy Body, a new studio in south Asheville. “It becomes a whip, rather than a self nurturing activity. The people who stick with regular exercise do so because its fun and feels good to do it.”
Consider the science.
Every minute you breathe, you pump blood through the heart an average of 72 times and receive thousands of nerve impulses. An extremely complex and sophisticated vehicle, your body requires adequate movement — exercise — to function properly. Most doctors recommend a regular, almost daily dose of it.
The benefits of regular exercise — any physical activity that moves the body — are profound. On the physiological level, exercise helps manage chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, cholesterol, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can even help prevent certain types of cancer.
If that wasn’t reason enough, exercise greatly impacts mood, creating brain chemicals that boost confidence, improve self-esteem, reduce depression and stress and sharpen mental focus. And it also helps you maintain a healthy weight.
Yet even with all these benefits, many people find it difficulty to exercise regularly. According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, 55 percent of Buncombe County adults are classified as overweight or obese.
“When the decision to exercise is motivated by self-criticism it often creates more self-criticism,” says Julie Considine, health coach and founder of Heart Centered Healing in Asheville. “Have you ever felt that no matter how committed you are to your exercise routine you are not achieving the results you desire?” she continues. “I ask clients to acknowledge the voices of criticism and then expand their idea of beauty beyond the standard media images. Seeing the beauty within and loving what already exists, they begin to make choices from a deeper sense of self-care and truth. The patterns of resistance naturally shift and they begin to exercise because it helps them shine brighter.”
Approaching exercise with such a self-nurturing attitude will bring more fun and enthusiasm to a workout according to Considine and Sinyai. It will also expand people’s ideas about what exercise is, encouraging them to engage in new activities that feel expressive and exciting.
And varying activities is not just more engaging: It prevents injury by working different muscles and avoiding repetitive stress. Racquet ball, dancing, hiking, cycling, swimming, walking, running, mountain climbing, paddling, step aerobics, martial arts, Pilates and certain types of yoga can all contribute to the 2.5 hours of moderate activity per week recommended by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (Weight Watchers would also add unexpected activities like vacuuming and vigorous household chores to this list.)
To find a more joy in exercise, holistic health models recommend paying heed to your body by not overdoing it, focusing on your breath and the activity your engaged in, and choosing activities that bring greater balance. Ayurveda, a holistic system of medicine, suggests the following:
• If you’re quick to start, but also stop, an exercise program, chose activities that incorporate slow movements, aren’t too tiring and help settle the mind — such as slow dancing, low-impact aerobics, tai chi, leisurely swimming in warm water, walking and yoga are ideal choices.
• If you tend to be fiercely competitive and demanding of yourself, look for individual sports that require strength, focus and speed — swimming, rowing, walking or jogging in a cool shady area, tennis and yoga are all good choices.
•If you prefer a more sedentary lifestyle or excel at activities that require endurance, try more stimulating activities — distance walking, running, aerobics, cycling and team sports are preferred.
In Asheville, exploring new forms of exercise couldn’t be easier. If you like to dance, choose from one of the nightly events, from Monday night contra at the Grey Eagle to Sunday morning freeform with the Asheville Movement Collective. Want to hike? Join one of the clubs leading outings almost every weekend. Free tai chi is available on Tuesdays in Montford Park at 6 p.m., and www.YogaAsheville.com lists a comprehensive on-line calendar of yoga classes.
You can also check out a variety of classes offered through AB Tech’s continuing education program, or join one of the many local clubs, from walking to soccer, found in the calendar section of the Mountain Xpress.
“When you move better, you feel better,” says Jessica Sehested Mark, owner of Happy Body. “And when you feel better, you reinvigorate your entire life.”
— Jacquelyn Dobrinska is an Asheville-based writer and yoga therapist working toward her doctorate in holistic health.