Making Fitness Fun

Staying fit is vital for good health, yet it can be hard to stay motivated and make the time to exercise regularly. Here are some tips on how to keep the momentum going.

By Telus Health


The best way to turn exercise into a part of your normal routine is to make it something you enjoy. So here are some strategies to make fitness fun:

Partner up. Work out with someone you enjoy spending time with—a friend, roommate, family member, partner, or spouse. Combining exercise with socializing will increase the likelihood of you maintaining your exercise habit and will make it more fun! If no one you know is available the same time you are, ask your current network of friends if they know someone looking for a fitness partner. 

Make it a team effort. Take classes at a gym or participate in team sports to add a sense of accountability—especially if you have teammates depending on you. Seeing others making similar efforts and accomplishing goals can also provide motivation.

Cross-train. Learn several different workouts (both cardio and strength) and alternate for variety. It’s healthy to do an assortment of activities and work different muscles, and it keeps exercise from getting monotonous.

Challenge your fears. Consider taking up a sport or activity that is also mentally challenging or will expand your limits. For example, if you are afraid of heights, you might consider trying bouldering—which not only improves physical strength and endurance, but enhances mindfulness, focus, and courage.

Listen to music. Upbeat music that makes you feel good also makes workouts more fun. In fact, music can boost performance. According to sports psychologist Dr. Costas Karageorghis, “Music lowers your perception of effort. It can trick your mind into feeling less tired during a workout, and also encourage positive thoughts.”

Get outside. Fresh-air activities (such as running, hiking, or team sports) stave off boredom by adding variety to where you go and what you see during your workout. Plus, being outside can also improve brain function, mood, and mental health.

Be creative. If you’re unable to do your regular activity, know what alternatives are available. With just a little room, it’s possible to get a full workout in any space—home, office, hotel, or park, with or without equipment. Optional equipment includes an exercise mat, a couple of small weights, and a few routines (TV, online, app).

Try something new. You might struggle to maintain exercise habits because you have not yet found something that suits you, or you just plain don’t enjoy exercising! Find other ways to stay active and incorporate it in your daily routines—such as gardening, walking your dog, doing squats while waiting for water to boil when cooking, dancing to your favorite music, or engaging in activity-based video games, to name a few. If you force yourself to go running, when you were built for yoga or dancing, you are not likely to keep it up. Keep exploring new avenues until you find what you were made for.

Join a group

Check your community for fitness or health groups—gyms, organizations, and online. See if your employer offers any fitness groups at work. These types of groups or programs could include:

  • walking groups
  • community races
  • company sports teams
  • incentives for biking to work
  • on- or off-site fitness classes and personal training
  • healthy cooking and nutrition classes
  • discounts at gyms and other fitness facilities
  • local bike clubs
  • company fitness challenges

Once you’ve found a group at your company or in your community, the following tips will help you to get going:

Sign up. If you sign up, you’ll be more motivated to follow through and meet the challenge.

Encourage colleagues or friends to sign up with you. Participating with people you know can give you a big mental boost towards following through and achieving your fitness goals.

Log your activity. Keep a record of your progress throughout the challenge so you can see how far you’ve come. This can be a measure such as time, length, or weight, or you could record how you felt before and after your workout to recognize the benefits.

Stay positive. If you fail to meet a particular fitness goal or if you progress more slowly than you’d hoped, don’t give up. Instead, use it as additional motivation to keep going and as a clue to help you learn what you might have to change to move closer to the goal. Remember, putting in the effort and making progress is much more important than reaching an arbitrary number in an arbitrary length of time.

Know the numbers

Regardless of your type of exercise, some people are motivated by seeing scores, measurements, and statistics. Some numbers that might help include:

Competition. If you have a competitive streak, take advantage of it by getting involved in a competitive sport or activity. Running, rowing, basketball, weightlifting, and bike racing are just a few possibilities. A fitness challenge may include competing against other participants. You and a few friends might create a friendly bet based on achievements. Compete against yourself, aiming for improved personal records. Remember to push away negative thoughts or preconceptions about exercise.

Track and measure. Sometimes tracking measurable factors like weight, body fat index, cholesterol, or endurance provide motivation. Body parts can also be measured—arms, hips, waist. Seeing these numbers move in a healthy direction gives you a positive feeling that helps you keep going. Even just having a specific pair of pants that don’t currently fit is a great measurement. You might also want to measure your sense of wellbeing and mental health: Do you feel a difference in how you feel about yourself after these activities? Perhaps you could score your mood on a scale of one-to-ten before and after.

Set a goal. Whether it’s a 5km race, a mini triathlon, or just fitting into a specific pair of jeans, setting a realistic goal can help you persist. Reward yourself when you achieve that goal!

Set a regular time. When you make exercise a part of your normal routine, just like having a shower or eating dinner, it becomes a fact of life rather than a chore or something you can put off or ignore. Check it off once you’ve completed your exercise and watch the number of active days add up.

Getting started with regular exercise is the hard part. Now, with a few more tips on how to make it fun, social, and measurable, you have more tools to help you maintain your activity level.

USask’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) provides confidential counseling, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Through Telus Health, supports and resources can be accessed by phone, video, on-line chat, in-person visits and self-guided learning.

USask also offers Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, an online, short-term form of therapy that helps you develop strategies and skills to help change your thoughts, attitudes and beliefs related to emotional and behavioral issues that may be causing you difficulty.

For eligible employees, your benefit plan also covers mental health supports including clinical counsellors, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, psychotherapists, and social workers.