As more and more of our time gets eaten up with social media, longer working hours, and streamed video, it's easy for us to forget about staying active. In contrast to our grandparent's generation, who were more likely to have physically active jobs and enjoy active pursuits in their spare time, most of us will find ourselves in jobs that involve us sitting down for large portions of the day and spending our spare time on iPads and TV-on-demand.
While you may have tried to overcome this daily inactivity by getting a gym membership or taking up running, and maybe you even kept it up for a month or two, you will know what I mean when I say that it is harder and harder to motivate ourselves to do exercise for exercise sake in a modern world full of potential distractions. It is hardly suprising we have an obesity epidemic when instant gratification is only a smart phone away – how long do most people exercise when they can be instantly entertained by the latest status update or funny video?
The common approach to this problem is just to suck it up and force yourself to go to the gym, and for some people this can work as they discover a passion for weight lifting or running. However, for most people, this solution just gets them right back to where they started as busy days at work or not enough sleep leads to skipped sessions and motivation slowly dwindles away.
The real solution, in my opinion, is for us to stop trying to exercise and look for the form of active play that will inspire and motivate us. What is active play? Any activity that gets you moving, raises your heart rate, gives you a buzz, and most importantly provides a fun challenge. The appeal is obvious – if you can find an activity that you find interesting, exciting and challenging, motivation is no longer an issue. Plus, healthy life habits become easier when you know it will help you with your chosen form of active play.
Now for me, my most important active play is practicing martial arts. Obviously, I'd recommend this to you as a great way to enjoy getting in shape and staying healthy (not to mention learning important self defense skills), but active play can also include mountain biking, surfing, marathon running, climbing, or a whole host of other activities.
For something to be active play, it really only needs to have two main aspects: firstly, it needs to involve some sort of personal challenge (note I say “challenge” here and not “competition” - the latter is only going to be useful for a small percentage of people), and secondly, you should find it fun and interesting to learn about.
If you really want to be fit and healthy in the long-term, look to discover what active play will interest you; whether that's martial arts or some other pursuit. The best motivation is always that which comes from within ourselves – our own satisfaction at enjoying a challenge and setting our bodies and minds towards a fun goal.