Is exercise fit for purpose?

(Paper) Weight Lifting

I get why exercise is typically framed in such a joyless way. It’s something many of us want to avoid or just get out of the way, so the idea of maximising its efficiency is very attractive. It appeals to the side of us that wants a clear plan to follow and tick off as we go.

But are there alternatives, or activities that can complement these workouts, that are more freeform and fun? What if we can find forms of exercise that don’t feel like exercise?

Playing sports like football or squash has the potential for joy in that the flow and outcome of the game can’t be predicted. There’s also room for expression and creativity. This is great, but you need other people and that’s particularly tricky as the moment.

I love to go walking. You don’t need any special equipment, people or much of a plan — although walking with others can be a great joy.

I particularly enjoy a walk that has no destination, going wherever instinct leads you. This really became a thing with the Situationists who called it a dérive — a way to gain a new understanding and appreciation for a place through aimless exploration. It also keeps you fit, but that’s just a side-benefit.

We’re new dog owners. And with a dog, the walks come for free. After three months we’re all quite a lot fitter and that’s just down to moving more every day in an activity that we love.

People who have developed expertise in forms of movement like dance and yoga will drill the basics, but they’ll also improvise, exploring the edges of what they’re capable of. This taps into how we would use our bodies as very young children when getting from one side of the room to the other was a challenge. We’d have to experiment, shuffling, dragging, jumping, falling, rolling, exploring, seeing and feeling what works and what doesn’t.

Freerunning is a great example of what I’m driving at. The whole activity is about using your body, and the way you can move it, to respond to your environment. It’s great to watch but requires an intimidating level of athleticism and skill to take part in. I’ll probably stick to walking. It’s the freedom in freerunning that’s so inspiring.

How do you make exercise more playful?

I want to make the world a more playful place, find out more here. You can sign up for my newsletter and be part of a playful community here. And you can buy playful products here.




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Sam Griffiths

Sam Griffiths

I want to make things more playful. It’s fun and it makes the world a better place. Want more play in your life? Sign up for my newsletter

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