Learning to Love Exercise by Dr Gary Leong

It goes without saying – healthy eating without exercising is not an effective way to transform your health. Not only is exercise vital for mental well-being, it is also critical for disease prevention. The risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, osteoporosis and type two diabetes have all been proven to dramatically lower with healthy physical activity levels.

Unfortunately, modern living is driven by technology rather than physical activity. The sedentary nature of life and work for many people means activity-quotas go unmet. The unfortunate reality is that this does not only apply to adults, with children and adolescent’s lifestyle shockingly couch driven.

People, no matter the age, need to find ways to get moving and incorporate exercise into their lifestyle. As with any lifestyle change, I cannot promise it will be enjoyable or easy on your first attempt. But, with consistency and patience, I am confident you will learn to love exercise and crave the endorphin rush in no time.

At the beginning, exercise should be scheduled just as a meeting or appointment would be. Each week block out what physical movement you will do each day and when you will do it. Approach these times as you would an appointment – they are a non-negotiable time slot that must be attended.

Hate running? That’s okay. It is perfectly normal to not enjoy every aspect of exercise. Explore different options, whether that be boxing, barre or biking, to find your bliss. There are countless forms of exercise worth exploring. I don’t suggest diving in with a HIIT workout or setting off for an hour-long run, rather take your dog for a long walk, kick a ball in the park with your children or walk part of the way to school. I personally love exercising outside. When moving outside, you get the added bonus of Vitamin D along with the calming power of the natural environment and its healing properties.

Lack the motivation to get started? Try group exercise. Classes are a great way to get motivated and remain accountable. Having someone encouraging and participating alongside you makes it considerably easier to get started and find your feet. Encourage your partner or a friend to begin the exercise journey alongside you.

Before you put your exercise plans into motion, take some time to explore why you have previously avoided exercise. For people suffering with obesity, no matter the age, it is common to see an avoidance (or hatred) of all forms of exercise and a resistance to doing it at all costs. If you think you and your family are ready to get moving, you need to explore the origins of your previous resistance first.

As a parent you are incredibly influential to your children’s perception of everything – including exercise. By vocalising your negative relationship with exercise, it is natural your children will adopt the same negative perception.

Just as they will adopt mirrored perceptions, parents must remember their role model status. Telling your children to exercise when you yourself do not is simply not enough and hypocritical. It is your job to lead by example and exemplify a healthy, active lifestyle.

Whilst exercise may not be physically or mentally easy straight off the bat, I promise it will be rewarding for your long-term health and enjoyable over time. Even better than this, you will be able to encourage your child or children to transform their life alongside you. With consistency and accountability, you and your family’s journey to loving exercise will be successful.

Have you joined the 2020 Family Health Challenge yet?  We have many resources, templates, and ideas for helping you to learn to love exercise, and more.  Just sign up here – it’s FREE – and start today. 

Associate Professor Gary M. Leong MB, BS, FRACP, PhD is a Senior Staff Specialist in Paediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes Department of Paediatrics, Nepean Hospital, Nepean Blue Mountains, Paediatric Diabetes and Family Metabolic Health Services, The University of Sydney, Charles Perkins Centre Nepean Research Hub, Kingswood, NSW.

E: gary.leong@health.nsw.gov.au



Gary Leong

Prof Gary Leong is a paediatric endocrinologist based in NSW and is passionate about educating the community about prevention of childhood obesity and has written a book called, ‘Ride to Life’.

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