Let’s get moving

Dr Inge Kriel shares advice on how to make exercise part of your life and how to make it fun.

I’m not going to lie…I dislike exercise. I don’t want to get out of bed at 05:00 (especially in winter) to go to the gym.   I would much rather crawl under my duvet and sleep a few extra hours. 

However, I know that once I get into my exercise programme, I do enjoy it, and it makes the rest of my day so much more bearable. I have more energy, more focus, and I can deal with whatever stress the rest of the day brings.

Most people are well-aware of all the health benefits of regular exercise. I think, however, that the mental health benefits are often overlooked. Personally, I know that if I don’t exercise regularly, I’m moody, grumpy, and impatient. My fibromyalgia (musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues) flares up and I’m exhausted all the time.  

So, why then, do we find any excuse to forgo exercise? I often talk myself out of exercising because “I’m too tired”, when the reality is that exercise boosts my energy levels. The truth is that exercise just isn’t fun. Well, at least for me it isn’t.  

I had to make an active decision to include exercise into my day as an essential, non-negotiable chore that needs to be done, much like brushing my teeth. In this way, I can’t find a way to wriggle out of it. 

Make exercise fun

In the end, no one form of exercise is superior to another. The most valuable form of exercise is the exercise that you manage to commit to every day. 

The thought of swimming makes me want to plop on the couch and do nothing for the day. So, I don’t swim, I run. My husband on the other hand dreads the thought of jogging, but is quite happy to swim a kilometre every day. So, when my patients ask me what exercise they should be doing, I tell them the best exercise is the one they can stick to. 

I look at my kids – they don’t exercise, but they are always busy with active play. So, I join them on the trampoline for 30 minutes, or play soccer or cricket in the garden with them. Without even realising it, I manage to do my 30 minutes a day just by playing with my kids and without really feeling as if I’ve exercised.

My husband and I have built exercise into our day to spend time together – a “workout date”. We sneak off for 40 minutes during our hectic work schedules for a quick gym session together. This way we spend quality time together and complete our physical activity goals for the day. The other benefit of exercising with your partner is that they motivate you when you’re not in the mood to exercise, and often push you a bit harder when you may be prone to slacking. 

Don’t start out too hard

One thing I’m guilty of when starting an exercise regimen, is that I think I’m 21. I start out way too hard and fast. With the result being that I either injure myself, or my muscles are so sore the next day that I abandon exercise completely.

The key is to start off slowly and gradually increase the intensity. If you’ve never exercised in your life, don’t go out and run a marathon. Start with a brisk walk every day and gradually progress from there. 

If you’re unsure how to exercise safely without causing injury, then see a biokineticist who can guide you with a safe and sane exercise programme. 

Balanced lifestyle

Another misconception is that you can do 30 minutes a day and then lie on the couch, shoving your face with chips. This is almost as harmful as not exercising at all!

Exercise is not beneficial unless it’s accompanied by a healthy, balanced diet. Furthermore, the benefits of exercise are completely negated if you’re inactive the rest of the day. A study, done by Hamilton et al¹, showed that an individual who meets physical activity guidelines (AHA recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week), but sits behind a desk the rest of the day, has significant negative cardiovascular and metabolic effects despite meeting physical activity guidelines. 


1. Hamilton MT, Healy GN, Dunstan DW et al. Too little exercise and too much sitting:  inactivity physiology and the need for new recommendations on sedentary behaviour.  Current cardiovascular risk reports 2008 2(4): 292

Dr Inge Kriel is an oncology care physician practicing at Netcare Milpark Hospital.


Dr Inge Kriel is an oncology care physician practicing at Netcare Milpark Hospital.