Exercise for Disease Management Is a Bitter Pill To Swallow

Many find the advice of exercise for disease management a bitter pill to swallow, even when faced with a scary diagnosis like diabetes or hypertension. Thinking of exercise as doctor-ordered medicine makes it seem too tedious and boring. Simply “exercising for 30 minutes a day” can feel like too much of a time commitment. Sitting still is easier. This is why sedentary lifestyles lead to as many as 1 in 10 premature deaths around the world.

But what if exercise could be fun rather than a chore?

I saw this in action the other day at the gym. Looking out the window, trying to forget I was on the elliptical machine, I saw swarms of kids running, spinning around and racing each other everywhere. It’s the kind of behavior I hadn’t seen since I was about 12.

I wondered what on earth could push kids of all shapes and sizes to voluntary physical fitness. After all, these are the same children who statistically spend more than seven and a half hours a day in front of a screen.

They were playing Pokémon GO.

Making Physical Fitness a Game

Pokémon GO, for the uninitiated, is a wildly popular game for mobile devices that sends players on real-world scavenger hunts for online characters. Players see their real environment through their phones but with an image of a Pokémon character.

The unintended benefit of this game is that the kids in my neighborhood are becoming more physically active. Why? Because it’s fun.

This is the message we push in our work with schools, companies and communities. Make regular exercise fun, and people will keep doing it. Getting in 30 minutes per day does not have to be drudgery—honestly!

Ideas for Promoting Healthy Living

Pokémon GO is one suggestion for making healthy kids. Here are some other ideas from some of the people who participated in our Promoting Healthy Lifestyles course:

For two clients who are in wheelchairs but need physical activity:

“I recommend hand bikes, stretchy bands, leg lifts (if they are not paralyzed), and/or pool exercises.”

For a 16-year-old girl unhappy with her weight who loves animals:

Volunteering at an animal shelter to walk the dogs/socialize with the animals is a low-cost way to get some exercise without ‘overtly’ exercising.”

For someone with arthritis pain to work healthy habits into his life:

“Since one of his barriers is pain in his joints, I advised him to start small by parking his car farther away from the entrance when he went shopping.”.

For motivating a family member to exercise regularly:

“My daughter was overweight and a loner. We started to go to Zumba classes together. She enjoys it and she has lost weight. She has maintained her weight and she changed her diet on her own.”

Share these ideas with someone who could use a little motivation for active living today.

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