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Should Exercise Be Promoted as Fun?

According to Michelle Bridges’ latest article in the Sydney Morning Herald – the answer is an unequivocal ‘no’.

The article begins with Michelle stating:

“If I hear one more health club or personal trainer tell me that fitness should be fun I’m going to vomit. I understand that we all take maybe just a teensy bit of licence when it comes to describing the products and services that we are trying get others to embrace, or pay for. But as someone who has spent a fair portion of her life dripping in sweat while sucking in the big ones, I take umbrage at the notion that while all that wheezing and aching was going on, it was ‘fun'”.

The article continues with these sentiments:

“Let’s admit it, the words “Wow! This is fun!” rarely escape our lips when we’re grinding up Heartbreak Hill on the City to Surf or midway through our fifth set of deep barbell squats. Fun is hanging out on the deck of a luxurious yacht on Sydney Harbour, being waited on by svelte Latino boys wearing nought but a pair of boardies and a sailor’s hat. Fun is canyoning in Queenstown. Fun is the Birdcage on Derby Day. Fun is whale watching in the Margaret River district.”

Based on the frenzied reaction on social media, from both within the industry and outside (i.e., from fitness enthusiasts), Michelle’s article has definitely ruffled some feathers with those who are interpreting what she’s saying as being ‘exercise should not be considered or promoted as being fun. Period.’ Such reactions have included:
  • “I wholeheartedly disagree with Michelle and think that if we are going to get a nation of non-exercisers moving more, we need to have some fun while we are doing it, not to mention that the intensity of exercise she speaks of could be potentially dangerous to many and is extremely off-putting to someone contemplating starting an exercise program.  I suppose it’s each to her own, but I love my daily dose of exercise that incorporates some fun. I wouldn’t do it otherwise and I see the benefits, not just to my body, but to my mind as well. “ – Lisa Champion
  • “Michelle is ridiculous! If you’re not having fun you’re not living. It’s all mindset.” – Shauney Apples
  • “For someone who is arguably the “face” of PT in Australia, I find it absolutely staggering that Michelle would publicly take this negative viewpoint. People already give themselves enough reasons not to exercise, and we don’t need our industry leader creating anymore excuses for people to justify and use!!! I’m also struggling to understand the motivations behind writing the article; not sure what she thought this was going to achieve, other than negative publicity?!”Rachel Freeman
  • “Go ahead and puke Michelle. I think for the average gym goer it should be about fun.”Stephen Bishop
  • “As a club owner my business thrives on the fun and social factor. The reason we work in the industry is to help people achieve their goals and the feel good factor that both parties get out of it… Overall health and fitness is the message we need to be sending – take the fun factor out of the equation and you have a new generation of couch potatoes putting more pressure on a health care system already under the pump…..when was the last time you saw a piece of marketing selling a healthy lifestyle with a person vomiting?”Mel Tempest
  • “Irresponsible comment to make. If the face of fitness doesnt have fun doing it, how are my clients going to fair??? God I hope none of the girls read this. Devastating!!!!! Spose now she has made her money she no longer cares. Must be time to get out of the industry. If it no longer fills you with joy or passion, if you no longer inspire and motivate then it’s time to retire.”Toni Graham
  • People need more fun full stop, and putting FUN into Exercise is a great way to motivate people to do regular exercise, All exercise doesn’t need to be in the gym and can include Skiing, Rollerblading, Swimming, Tennis, indeed any activity that gets you moving.”Greg Doherty
Another well articulated response was found on the A Healthy Paradigm website: http://ahealthyparadigm.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/id-like-to-tell-michelle-bridges-exercise-is-fun/
Of course, the coin is always two-sided. Others who read the article have defended Michelle’s message, with comments such as:
  • “I agree with Michelle completely! Exercising is challenging and relentless and I think the word “FUN” is misused. The expression IMMENSE SATISFACTION LEAVING YOU ON A HIGH as the endorphins are released could possibly be misconstrued as FUN. Nothing beats the feeling of a really focused disciplined workout and the FUN begins when the workout is completed.”Sarah Gray
  • “She is talking about going hard. Her sessions every one would count and be hard. I know what she’s talking about when I’m doing a leg session and I’m in pain. It ain’t fun but I do it because of the outcome!”Vanessa Thomson
  • “I get where she is coming from, if you are exercising or play sport at a decent level you are hurting during training and the feel good part comes after you have finished.”Peter Calderone
  • “I can understand where she is coming from. She isn’t saying exercising isn’t fun she is saying that at that pivotal point between fatigue and vomit, who actually says “this is fun”? I enjoy my work workouts and look forward to them but in the moment I sure as hell don’t say how much fun because I am working hard.” –  Emily Riggall

So what is your take on exercise? Should it be considered and promoted by the industry as fun, or not?

To read the full article by Michelle Bridges click here.

Note: some of the above quotes were sourced from the  Australian Fitness Network facebook page.

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