Is having fun the key to getting fit?

I was interviewed recently for an article that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and also on WA Today (see the link below) in relation to whether having fun was in fact the key to getting fit. The point that I wanted to make was that fun was only one aspect of getting fit. There has to be some intrinsic or internal value to getting fit or exercising – meaning that you have to get something out of it from an internal perspective. Other intrinsic reasons, aside from fun, might be the social aspects of exercise, challenging oneself, the lifestyle, and feeling fit and healthy. There are also extrinsic or external reasons – these are things like being paid to exercise, to win a bet, or doing do as an agreement with a friend or partner. Intrinsic reasons tend to be more effective in the medium to longer term than extrinsic reasons.

Although having fun is one of the intrinsic factors why one might exercise, perhaps more importantly, it’s only one factor in staying fit. I think this is an important distinction – getting fit and staying fit. Like losing weight – there is a big difference between getting to a healthy weight and staying at a healthy weight. As a sport and exercise psychologist, I obviously want people to get fit and healthy and stay fit and healthy in the longer term. My concern with those who focus only on “fun” is that soon as exercise isn’t fun then they don’t want to do it anymore. So they might start getting fit and have fun doing it but once the novelty wears off then they start to get bored and their interest and motivation starts to fall. Once that happens, it gets highly difficult to continue exercise and stay fit. That’s why your interest in exercise has to be more than just having fun. The reality is that exercise (when done right) is hard work and it isn’t always fun. Many frequent and life-long exercisers actually enjoy pushing themselves and motivate themselves by challenging themselves at training and in finding events and races that challenge them.

So why do you exercise?