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How to Think Like an Exerciser

More tools to change your perspective on exercise


Updated February 01, 2012

3. Find ways to move all day long. Non-exercisers and exercisers alike tend to spend a lot of time sitting each day, but many exercisers find ways to be active above and beyond their regular exercise routines. Whether it's taking more walks, parking at the end of the parking lot or taking the stairs at work, exercisers know that any movement can generate more energy and momentum.

Imagine an exerciser and a non-exerciser facing a flight delay:

The Non-Exerciser stays at the gate, thinking, "I better save my strength to fight the other passengers for overhead bin space. I already have my eye on that woman and her giant suitcase."
The Exerciser grabs her bag and starts walking, thinking, "I'm going to be on that plane for at least two hours and probably squished in the middle seat between two linebackers. Better get a walk in while I can."

How to Think Like an Exerciser

  • Stand up. Sitting can actually shut down your metabolism. Stand up whenever you can – while on the phone, watching TV, opening your mail or taking a break from work.
  • Invent reasons to move. Leave something in your car and take the stairs to get it. Make a rule that you have to walk around the parking lot at work three times before you can go in. Sit on an exercise ball when you're at the computer or watching TV. Eventually, these movements become habits and, before you know it, you're moving more than you're sitting.
  • Wear a pedometer. Pedometers can actually increase activity, motivating you to walk more just to see how many steps you can take.

4. Look at Exercise as a tool for getting what you want. Exercisers know that working out isn't just for weight loss, but a tool they can use to find balance, more time for the things they enjoy and a way to keep up with life with fewer injuries, illnesses and other things that keep them from functioning at their best.

Imagine an exerciser and a non-exerciser with a tight, aching back after a long day at work:

The Non-Exerciser is exhausted and decides to skip her planned workout, thinking, "My back hurts, so I probably shouldn't exercise. I'll just go home and put my feet up, which will allow my husband to attend to my needs more easily."
The Exerciser is exhausted, but decides to go through with his workout, thinking, "My back hurts from sitting for too many hours and my butt is starting to look a lot like my office chair. A workout will loosen things up and keep me from completely falling apart."

How to Think Like an Exerciser

  • View exercise as a timesaver. While you may see exercise as something that takes away from your time, it can actually save you time in the long run. A little exercise every day can help manage aches and pain, fatigue and offer protection from more serious illnesses like diabetes and cancer. If your schedule is overloaded, wouldn't you rather spend a little time each day exercising rather than hours in a doctor's waiting room, a hospital or in line for a prescription you might be able to avoid?
  • View exercise as a sanity-saver. Exercise is one of the few activities you can do that can increase your confidence, boost your mood and make you feel good about yourself all at the same time. It can also help manage symptoms of depression and anxiety. If you have trouble getting started, think about how you'll feel at the end of your workout
  • View exercise as a body-saver. If you have an aching back or tight shoulder muscles, you may mistakenly think you need more rest, when what your body craves is movement. In fact, exercise is a great way to manage and prevent back pain along with the other aches and pains that happen when we sit for hours at a time.

Shifting your thinking from a non-exerciser's point of view to an exerciser's point of view isn't easy. It requires looking at your daily tasks and choices with a different attitude and an eye toward your overall goals in life -- feeling good, having more energy and getting satisfaction out of your accomplishments. Fitting in exercise isn't just a function of weight loss, but a way to improve your overall quality of life. Changing how you think may be your first step in changing how live for the better.


Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington. The longitudinal effects of depression on physical activity. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2009 Jul-Aug;31(4):306-15. Epub 2009 May 13.

Friedenreich CM, Orenstein MR. Physical activity and cancer prevention: etiologic evidence and biological mechanisms. J Nutr. 2002 Nov;132(11 Suppl):3456S-3464S.

Hayden, J.; van Tulder, M.; Tomlinson, G. Strategies for Using Exercise Therapy To Improve Outcomes in Chronic Low Back Pain. Ann Intern Med. 2005 May 3;142(9):776-85.

Hu, G.; Lakka, T.; Kilpeläinen, T.; et al. Epidemiological studies of exercise in diabetes prevention. Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. 32(3): 583–595 (2007).

Puetz, T., et al. A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effect of Aerobic Exercise Training on Feelings of Energy and Fatigue in Sedentary Young Adults with Persistent Fatigue. Psychother Psychosom 2008;77:167-174.

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