Am I a Bad Person if I Hate to Exercise?
I Used to Be Wonder Woman
In 2011, I’d just become a certified exercise professional ready to whip the Boomers of Cape Cod into shape with my enthusiasm for my new found skills and knowledge. I’d make my clients love exercising! That happened a few times but, as I quickly learned, my super powers were limited. I expected everyone’s eyes to light up as they imagined the possibilities of strength training to ward off the effects of aging. Instead, what I often saw were the eyes of someone in line at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Some Rats Hate Exercise Too
I’m not saying people who don’t like to exercise are rats but recent studies of our twitchy-nosed friends reveal that our genes and the make-up of our brains may be to blame. Scientists at the University of Missouri interbred groups of rats to create two sets – one set loved to run – the other would watch Turner Classic Movies for hours on end if they could afford cable (just kidding, they used running wheels in their cages to test them).
The study revealed dozens of gene differences between the two groups. They also found differences in their brains. The pleasure centers in the brains of the happy runners lit up and were bathed in ‘happy hormones’ like serotonin. The other group, who actively avoided running, didn’t experience those reactions. Frank Booth, professor of psychology who oversaw the study, can’t make a direct link from our furry friends to humans but states, “It does seem likely that there is a genetic element to the motivation to exercise.” Don’t you love science – it’s not you, it’s your genes!
Sorry – You MUST Exercise
Just because your brain might not like to exercise, you need to do it for the rest of your body. Hundreds of studies on actual people – not rodents – leave no doubt about the need for targeted strength and cardiovascular exercise, particularly as we age.
So what do you do if you fall into the unhappy runner rat group? Take heart, those same studies show we don’t have to spend hours exercising. The guidelines are 150 minutes of week of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise. That comes out to 20 minutes a day to keep your heart and lungs healthy. For strength and power, you need at least two 30 minute strength sessions a week. That might seem daunting if you’re new to exercise but you can build up to it.
Do What’s Right for You
Everyone has their unique story. Some people have had bouts of illness or injury. Some, particularly women, have never exercised because they were never encouraged to, and some just flat out don’t like it but know they have to start.
From my brief experience as Wonder Woman, I learned to curb the cheer-leading and meet clients where they are in their fitness journey. I listen to everyone’s story to help boomers start exercising on their own terms. My cape is permanently in moth balls.