Exercise: always a pleasure, never a chore?

A graphic of people running, cycling, walking and doing yoga in a park

The benefits of being active are clear. But if you’re one of those (many) people who lack the motivation to exercise, read on for top tips to get you moving.

Never a chore…? We wish! So those fitness goals you set with the best of intentions have quickly been forgotten over the last few months? Same. Don’t panic, you’re not alone and there are plenty of ways to freshen up your exercise routine and maybe even enjoy it! You don’t need to be slugging it on the treadmill for hours or setting your alarm for 5.30am every morning … unless you enjoy that of course.

Why is exercise important?

Being physically active is important for many reasons including, and maybe most importantly, because it can reduce our risk of diseases such as cancer, but also for its positive effect on our physical and mental wellbeing.

Although the benefits are clear, not everyone is doing enough movement throughout the day, with as many as 22% of people in the UK being considered inactive and not meeting the recommended guidelines for physical activity.

There are many reasons why people don’t enjoy exercise, or are put off by the thought, including:

  • not knowing what to do
  • time constraints
  • perceived lack of ability
  • lack of motivation
  • boredom
  • fatigue
  • feeling embarrassed

How much exercise do you need to do?

The current UK guidelines for physical activity are:

  • 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week


  • 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week

with the addition of muscle-strengthening activities twice a week.

Looking at those numbers, it can feel like a lot! But bear in mind that this can be broken up into short periods of activity throughout the week.

These recommendations are also just a guide, and remember something is always better than nothing. If you’re not currently active, try to aim for short bursts of exercise. For example, going for a 10-minute walk after lunch is a great start, as this may feel less daunting initially and more enjoyable long term.

Top tips for making exercise more enjoyable:


Motivation is temporary and on a rainy Monday in the middle of winter, you’ll likely forget what having motivation even feels like. So instead build a small daily habit that in time will become routine, such as 20 minutes of yoga before breakfast or a walk to work in the morning to avoid the rush-hour traffic.


7am class? Lay out your gym clothes the night before, make sure your car has petrol or your bike is ready, and set your alarm. No one enjoys waking up and frantically turning the house upside down to find their socks or keys. Remove any potential excuses with good preparation. Being on time and calm will help you have a far more enjoyable experience.

Set some goals

It’s fun feeling like you’re achieving something. Want to train for a 5k? Or gain the strength to do a pull-up? If you set your mind to something, it gives you focus and keeps you engaged so achieving it will be an accomplishment.

Fit it into your day and make it work for you

No, you don’t need to be in a gym for hours every day. Have a spare 30 minutes in your lunch break? Follow a yoga video; there are so many to choose from on YouTube. Small manageable changes are often more effective than setting expectations that require huge changes to your routine that don’t fit into your daily life.

Find something you enjoy doing

Hate running? Don’t run. Simple.

It might take experimenting with a few different forms of exercise before you find what you love. If you dread putting on your running trainers, or the thought of going to that workout class you tried and hated makes you want to turn around on your way there, you aren’t going to enjoy it or stick to it. Finding something you enjoy means you are more likely to commit to it! Why not try … walking football, cycling, hiking, geocaching, spinning, martial arts, swimming – there are so many options to choose from.

Get outside

If you find your house a distraction, whether it’s having family around or being glued to your gadgets, try taking your workout outside to a park or the garden; it gets you away from the computer and being sat inside. You could also aim to change it up from what you do every day, so you don’t get bored. Why not make a list on your phone of 5 local parks and how to get there, and explore a new one each week?

Musical motivation

Pop on a podcast or listen to some good music. Research has found listening to music during exercise can help make it more enjoyable. A podcast is also a great way to learn something new and distract your mind from work and other life stresses.

Don’t overdo it!

Ever gone too hard at the gym after months of doing very little? It hurts and the likelihood is you’ll spend a few days, if not the rest of the week, sitting on the sofa achy and tired! Nothing enjoyable about that. Build up your exercise routine slowly and give your body time to adjust. Remember, this is not a race but an opportunity to create long-term habits that you enjoy to improve your health and wellbeing.