The key to fitness: Fun

02:39, Jan 14 2014
DANCE!: We challenge you to get through a Zumba class without smiling.

We all know that exercise is good for us, but for many people, the idea of spending time in the gym or taking part in a boot camp is akin to torture. With new classes such as POUND, Skate fit and Zumba popping up, are those previously resistant to exercise finding that the 'fun' factor is the key to getting fit?

Jodi Zimmer says that she "hated" attending the gym and personal trainer sessions and lacked the motivation to exercise on a regular basis.

"I wanted to find an exercise I would enjoy, especially as I don't have much free time. I danced a lot when I was younger, and always enjoyed it, so I thought I would try Zumba".

Jodi has been participating in the popular dance workout, Zumba for eight months.

"Zumba is based on interval training, so you have two fast songs in a row and then a slow one to bring the heart-rate down", she explains.

"It doesn't feel like exercise, although you do work up a sweat. It is so much fun".


So when it comes to staying fit, can 'fun' be an effective driving force? Accredited personal trainer Leonie Findley thinks so.

"Fun is an excellent motivator. We all want to have fun, whether it's a cheeky run with a friend, a Zumba class or lifting weights - if it gets your body moving, sweating and increasing strength and fitness, it can't ever be a bad thing. Exercise is much easier when we're smiling".

Smiling is not necessarily something you would associate with a high impact cardio workout, but Kirsten Potenza, co-founder of new fitness trend POUND, which is available in some NZ gyms, describes her class as "fun and energetic".

POUND incorporates cardio, pilates, isometric and plyometric moves as participants "pound" the floor with neon weighted drumsticks to a thumping sound track.

"We wanted to create a workout that allows people to really get into the music and be distracted from the fact that they are actually working quite hard. That's why POUND has been so successful amongst participants - it's extremely fun, freeing and stress-relieving".

While the "fun" factor might be a great way to get started, is it enough to keep people motivated in the long term?

Sport and exercise psychologist Shayne Hanks says that although intrinsic values (fun, social interaction and personal challenge) are better motivators than extrinsic values (external reward and encouragement), "fun" on it's own might not be enough to keep motivation levels up.

"An emphasis on fun itself means that as the novelty or enjoyment factor wears off, exercise becomes less attractive", explains Hanks

To maintain motivation levels, Hanks suggests setting personal challenges such as fun runs or endurance events. "New exercisers should set goals and targets and seek challenges to ensure longer term motivations remain consistently high".

Hanks also says that it is important to find the balance between enjoying exercise and other motivators such as personal challenge, social interaction and a desire to feel healthy. "Ideally, fun should only be one element of why one exercises," he explains.

Bianca Wordley believes she has found that balance in new fitness craze 'Skate-fit', which encompass roller skating skills, cardio and floor work to develop core strength.

"I was bored of going to the gym and needed more interaction with other people to keep motivated. I loved roller skating as a child and was pretty good at it, so I jumped at the chance to get back in skates".

"It is so much fun skating around with other women listening to 80s music. We all motivate each other to try harder and better our skating skills. We feel like kids again.

After only five weeks of attending Skate Fit, Bianca is already feeling the benefits.

"I'm fitter and feel braver for trying out something scary and sticking with it. Most importantly I feel happier - I've met some rad new friends and we laugh so much at roller skating", she says.

"I'm definitely hooked."

Sydney Morning Herald