Corinne Austin | Personal Training

Exercise is a Privilege NOT a Punishment

Exercise should be viewed as a beautiful tribute to the freedom of movement.  It should be a privilege undertaken by the majority.  But it’s not.  There is still an absolute minority that get involved with regular movement and exercise.  And a surprising proportion of that minority see it as a necessary evil.  Exercise should never been seen as punishment (or an evil, or any other word with a negative connotation), in any context.  Exercise is not punishment, nor should it ever be.


Exercise (which, for the sake of this article, is any physical activity or movement that moves and challenges our body in some physical capacity) should be participated in because you are able to, because you want to, and because you need to (for your health’s sake), but not because you feel you have to.


If you cannot connect positive words to your current exercise regime then I would highly recommend you spice it up or change things a little.  Exercise needs to be enjoyed, and it should be enjoyed.  Exercise shouldn’t be something you wish to avoid, feel agonisingly apprehensive about, or that makes you wince at the thought of doing it.  Exercise should be something you seek out naturally, an innate desire to move your body to keep it strong, fit, and supple.  Exercise should be something that you anticipate with enthusiasm and excitement.  Exercise should make you happy and fulfilled.  We were all bred to move as much as we were bred to continue the life cycle.  It’s a necessity for a long, healthy and quality-filled life, but it should never be feared.


You may have seen the cliché ‘You can’t outrun a bad diet.’  Well, actually, you possibly could outrun a bad diet, but none of us have time for that.  The point is that no type of exercise will undo the not-so-good food choices you make.  We need to stop telling ourselves that we can have what we like at the morning tea function because we’ve got a date booked at the gym later on.  Exercise is not a punishment for the sin of falling in to temptation time and time again, nor for the act of eating more than we should have.  There are far more important factors we need to address here.  Exercise is not the answer to this particular scenario – we need to stop exercising away our poor nutrition habits.  And we need to alter our thought patterns drastically so that exercise doesn’t become the negative consequence of our actions.


And all of this needs to change at grass roots level.  I can clearly remember back in primary school days that I (or anyone else in my class) was sent out to run twice the perimeter of the field as a consequence to talking too much in class.  Immediately we are taught that exercise is perceived as an unpleasant activity, can be used as a weapon, and that we should try to avoid it.  This is not what we want our kids to learn!


Exercise and physical activity can (and should) be used to build a student’s self-esteem, confidence, self-efficacy, and physical achievements.  We need to enable children to develop healthy and positive attitudes towards exercise, and that it can be used as a means of improving gross and fine motor skills, agility, flexibility, strength, and overall health and wellbeing.  This begins in the very early years, where exercise and movement should be tailored to the level of the child, and include activities that they can succeed at, but most of all have fun and laughs participating in.  It shouldn’t be used as a form of punishment, ever.


If you’re one of the many who view exercise as the necessary evil, then here are a couple of ways you can alter the way your perceive it:



  • Think of exercise time as ME time, and treat each session like any other appointment in you day. Don’t do it for anyone else’s benefit, only your own.
  • Try coming up with something you really want to do, like a triathlon or road race, and figure out (or seek advice about) what you need to do to accomplish it. It is a great motivator, and more importantly your motivation changes. It’s no longer about losing a few pounds, but rather accomplishing something much larger, and much more satisfying.
  • You don’t have to ‘exercise.’ Just find an activity that you enjoy—maybe dancing? The more you start to move the more you’re going to want to move. It may sound silly but it’s true. Start small and just add a little more movement each week.


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