A Healthy Dose of Fun


It’s that time of year again. The beginning of each new year brings with it the inevitable urge to get healthy; to eat better, exercise more, and lose those love handles. Usually the effort lasts a solid week or two and then most of us fall off the wagon.

It seems like one of the reasons for the sudden and predictable collapse comes from our tendency to “adultify” our plans. Our plates get filled with food that would have any self-respecting child running for the hills. And our workout routines involve overly structured regimens and boring reps. Blech.

Let’s throw the current childhood obesity epidemic out the window for a second. I’d place a wager that when you were a kid — six or seven years old, for instance — you were in pretty good shape. Back in the day, most kids were. And they weren’t eating shrubbery for dinner and running on a treadmill for thirty minutes every day.

A big key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is injecting it with a healthy dose of fun. Many people dread working out, because that’s what it is: working. It’s a monotonous chore that gets old quick.

Unless you’re a body builder or training for a triathlon, exercise is really just a fancy way to say, “be active.” Kids don’t “exercise” at all. But they do spend their days doing things like playing tag, hopscotch, and kickball, riding bikes, jumping rope, dancing around, climbing the monkey bars, flying kites, roller skating, and running through the sprinkler.

Some of the best ways to be active might involve activities that you wouldn’t normally consider exercise at all. I enjoy playing basketball. Even if there is no one around to play one-on-one with, I just like shooting around. Sometimes I have a contest with myself to see how many free throws I can make in a row, or how many I can make out of a hundred. It’s fun. And it can turn into quite a workout; shooting the ball and chasing after rebounds gets the ol’ heart rate up. The funny thing is, I never think of it as “working out.” Because it’s fun.

I’m sure there are a number of things you enjoy doing (or used to enjoy doing) that get you just as active, but which don’t come to mind when you think you need to exercise. Think back to your childhood for some ideas. In addition, making something into a game or competition, incorporating music, and involving friends or family are all things you can do to make things more fun.

The other side of the healthy lifestyle coin involves food. And again, diets usually conjure up images of bland food and boring (if any) desserts. Moderation is a big key here, but I am a big proponent of not cutting out your favorite foods. Chocolate is one of the greatest things God ever invented, and a little here and there is good for you and your soul. (By the way, a small bar of dark chocolate every day can keep your heart and cardiovascular system running well.)

Look at some of your favorite foods from childhood, and see if there’s a way to make a more nutritious alternative. Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread is still a pretty tasty (and healthy) lunch. Mac and cheese made with whole wheat pasta and real cheese is way better for you than the stuff that comes in a box.

Most people get in trouble because the portions they eat are too big, and the stuff they eat is over-processed. It is my belief that food should be fun, and as long as you don’t overdo it on portion size and keep the stuff made in a factory to a minimum, you should have no problems maintaining a sensible weight.

Getting and staying healthy should be a priority for everyone. Life is meant to be lived to the fullest, and it’s hard to do that with a body that is broken down due to carelessness and neglect. Eating well and staying active will forever be the cornerstones to a healthy lifestyle. But injecting fun and making it enjoyable are the keys to making it stick.

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  1. Jason,
    Great message on making exercise fun! In fact, a couple of weeks ago, I was hanging around the school gym, waiting for a couple of my kids to finish up practicing for a play they were both in. My daughter had brought her basketball along, so I started just shooting baskets. Another high school kid was there, waiting for his mom (who was running the play practice). So, he joined me in just shooting around a bit. And before long, I was shedding my sweatshirt. And then we were doing goofy shots mixed in there as well. Two things – it was a lot of fun while also getting a great workout in AND it was also pretty neat to just hang out with a high school student…and see life a bit from their perspective (which has nothing to do with your post, but cool nontheless!). When exercise is fun (i.e. games, or other activities we enjoy doing) we are much more likely to stick with it.

    • Hey Lance!

      Nothing better than shooting around just for fun. When I was a kid, I dreamed about having my very own indoor basketball court. (Especially with the temperature in the single digits!) Wait, who am I kidding? That’s STILL a dream of mine…

  2. Fun/Joy is totally the key to staying healthy…body, heart, mind and soul…even when on the outside we might appear “unhealthy” because of an ongoing illness…if we can find things to do to increase our “fun/joy” level…then health is improved!

    Happy New Year!

  3. In this new year, I’m gonna take a tip from a 1-year-old – when you hear the music you gotta dance. Why not add a little head bob, or hip wiggle, or a full out moshpit jump session whenever and where ever you hear a tune you can move to? I can’t wait till they play some Beatles in the grocery store!

  4. ‘shrubbery for dinner’ LOL

    Love this post!!! You are so right on-I refuse to do any ‘workout’ that feels like a chore. Instead, I run around with my dogs, hula hoop and go on nature hikes.

    • Running with dogs, hula hooping, and nature hikes? That sounds like the Olympics of Awesomeness.

      Rock on.

  5. My motto for this 2010 is, “Must control self.” I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to lose weight these past few years. Injecting fun and trying alternative approaches might just be the answers to help me finally succeed. :-) I believe it would reduce the pressure and allow me to focus more on taking action rather than just theorizing. Here’s to a healthier, carefree lifestyle!

    P.S. Go to http://www.makemorelivemoregivemore.com and get tips on how to keep your life and your business healthy and growing this 2010.