Exercise for People Who Hate Exercise

Growing up I dreaded gym class. I disliked being told how to exercise or feeling sweaty when I walked to my next class and I really disliked how competitive and repetitive the sports were that we played.

In the sixth grade I had a particularly troubling series of physical education experiences. Between Christmas and the end of the school year I sprained a finger at gym class once or twice each month. No sooner had one finger more or less healed than another would be sprained which meant that I spent four or five months living with at least one swollen, bruised, and resistant-to-being-bent finger almost all of the time. The memories of those months made me less interested in organized athletics than ever before. As an adult, though, I realize that exercising is part of staying healthy.

Some people genuinely enjoy the camaraderie of team sports and  the thrill of competition. Unfortunately I’m not one of them. If I try to keep up with activities that I dread doing I’m not going to have the motivation to continue with them. One of my challenges in 2010 and looking forward to 2011, then, is to find a variety of activities that I enjoy enough to come back to tomorrow, next month, and next year.

Here is my brainstormed list of activities so far. I’ve divided them into two categories: indoor and outdoor.


  • Take the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator
  • Walk up or down the escalator
  • Heavy duty cleaning around the house
  • Knead bread, mash potatoes, mix dough, etc. by hand
  • Assist neighbours with heavy lifting or awkward household chores
  • Swim (can be an outdoor activity in the summer)
  • Borrow fitness books from the library
  • Search internet for free workout video clips
  • Free activities: pushups, sit-ups, jumping rope, jumping jacks and squats
  • Cheap(ish) activities: bowling, roller skating


  • Gardening (I hope to have the space for this soon!)
  • Jogging
  • Brisk walks
  • Snow creativity – building snowmen, snow forts, snow monsters.
  • Going on a hike or camping trip (although not during the winter)
  • Bicycling, canoeing, ice skating


How do you stay active? What non-traditional forms of exercise do you participate in? Can you recommend any other inexpensive, indoor forms of exercise for the winter months? (It’s so much easier to stay active when it’s nice outside!)


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14 Responses to Exercise for People Who Hate Exercise

  1. Anonymous

    I can’t tell you how many gym memberships I’ve talked myself into and then just paid off without darkening the gym doors. I did manage walking as a form of transport so it didn’t seem like exercise, and I was very fit then, but when my feet got bad I had to give that up. However, I’ve been doing yoga every day now for over a year–I have a lesson once/week and otherwise I do 7-20min of yoga each morning and while it doesn’t sound like much, it helps a ton and I can really see the difference it has made in the last year. You can do it on your own, year round, with little or now cost (a mat, maybe a few props), so that would be my recommendation.

  2. Anonymous

    Well, there are a ton of dvd’s which I’m sure your library probably has, and there are also a lot of different styles of yoga. I’m doing Iyengar Yoga because that’s what the teacher I like on the island teaches and it seems to fit my personality well. If you have a Y or Parks District they may offer classes and that is a good way also. And I suspect there are yoga classes on line and on cable tv also. Yoga Journal (online) has a lot of info about the different types, etc. and I find that really informative. Honestly, I debated yoga for a number of years, figured it was the way I needed to go, but I was intimidated by the number of options as well as the thought of a class (I do academic classes so easily, but not physical exercise!), and when I found a teacher on the island, highly respected, who does private lessons, that was what finally got me motivated. It is worth the effort as yoga has so much to offer on so many levels! Good luck and let me know if I can answer any more questions with my limited knowledge.

  3. Teresa

    I’m not a very good person to respond to a question about exercise and physical activity. I was happy to hear that you may be able to have a garden in your new home. Gardening is a great way to provide physical activity and exercise! We have always had gardens, and up until 2 years ago I was able work in the garden. Bending, stretching, lifting, and breathing fresh air are all involved. I think for someone who hasn’t had a regimen of exercise in the past, gardening would be a great start!
    I like the suggestion of yoga as well. There are so many different kinds of yoga that can suit most anyone’s physical condition or abitlites. Maybe I should look more seriously at that!

  4. I get paid to exercise by driving my pedal cab 🙂

  5. 'Seph

    My last belt testing (Dec. 11th) in Taekwon-do was BRUTAL!
    (It isn’t getting any easier the closer to black belt you get).
    So I decided to take 1 class of conditioning/cardio.
    O…M…F…G… !!!!
    Talk ’bout difficult!!
    I’m discovering new muscles in my body I never knew even existed!! (I’m only aware of them ’cause of the pain I feel afterwards!!)


    • Wow, I would have guessed that class would have been easy for you because of all the work you put into getting your belt. Are you going to keep going to cardio?

      • 'Seph

        I found the last belt testing was hard. I’m told that the testing for the Black Belt is c. 2 1/2 hours long. c. 1 hour of it is cardio. (Yikes!!)

        Yes, I hope to continue this conditioning/cardio class… that is, of course, if it doesn’t kill me first.

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