This Is the Secret to Loving Exercise, According to Science

A new study claims that the key to exercise is actually enjoying it.

Have you ever wondered why some people enjoy working out, while others consider it to be a form of punishment? It turns out that there is a scientific reason why certain individuals enjoy being active. And if you are a workout hater, becoming a workout lover isn’t as tough as you might expect.

The secret to falling in love with exercise is as simple as changing your mindset, according to a new study published in the journal BMC Public Health. Lead author Michelle Segar explains to Time that people usually start exercise routines for the wrong reason — namely, weight loss — and then give up because they don’t see instant results.

For the study, Segar and her team of researchers interviewed 40 women between the ages of 22 and 49 to learn what made them feel happy and content in life. Then the researchers found out whether the women’s views on exercise supported or went against those keys to happiness.

Both the non-exercisers and the exercise fanatics wanted the same three things. According to Time, those things are “to have meaningful connections with others, to feel relaxed and free of pressure during their leisure time and to accomplish the goals they have set for themselves, whether in their personal lives, their careers or simply their daily to-do lists.”

But here is where the groups differed: Women who do not exercise regularly feel like exercising won’t bring them relaxation or meaningful connections, nor will it get them closer to their goals. Meanwhile, regularly active women believe exercise facilitates those things that lead to happiness.

In other words, those who don’t work out view exercise as a real drag and the opposite of relaxing: It’s basically a sweaty, messy chore they feel pressured to do, and when they can’t commit to a program they are left feeling like a failure. “These women feel alienated by exercise or feel that they’ve failed when they tried it in the past,” Segar explains to TIME. “They have a very narrow definition of what exercise should look like.”

Regularly active women view exercise as being in line with all the things in life that make them happy — social connectivity, relaxation and feelings of accomplishment. This means those women are actually getting pleasure out of their workouts instead of approaching it as a chore.

Segar believes that inactive people are simply brainwashed to believe that high-intensity activity is the best form of exercise, mostly because of past scientific studies and fitness-industry messaging. “That’s no longer true. The new recommendations for physical activity really open the door for people to pretty much do anything that works for them,” she says.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American College of Sports Medicine both recommend that adults ages 18 to 64 should do a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise spread over three to five days a week, which Segar says should be thought of as a starting point.

If you do fall into the category of the people who detest exercise, it’s easy enough to shift perspective and fall in love with it. “Women need to give themselves permission to use physical activity as a way to relax — to get together with friends or loved ones and take a leisurely stroll simply because being active and outdoors boosts their mood and makes them feel good.”

If you enjoy being outdoors, go for a walk or hike. Want to make some new friends? Try signing up for a group fitness class. If you are interested in learning self-defense, take the plunge and enroll in Krav Maga training. For those always on the go, consider walking or cycling to your final destination when possible. If you have kids, spend time jumping rope or taking them for a bike ride.

And if you're generally turned off by hard-core and high-intensity workouts, look into low-intensity steady-state cardio (or LISS). It's a safe, effective new fitness trend that lets you build cardiovascular endurance and even muscle strength without feeling like you're totally getting your butt kicked.

The point is, do something for the purpose of bettering yourself — not just in order to burn calories — and always remember that something is better than nothing. Exercise doesn’t have to translate to spending an hour spinning on a stationary cycle if you hate being indoors. The important thing is, just find ways to keep moving.

What Do YOU Think?

Do you agree with the findings of this new study? Which category do you fall into? What are other ways to fall in love with exercise?