If you've never tried the fitness app Zombies, Run, imagine a long series of tiny radio plays set during the zombie apocalypse that ask you to run to various locations on crucial missions—with the undead hot on your heels.
The app has sold over a million copies to date, and in a recent article at Medium, its writer and co-creator Naomi Alderman talks about how her personal experiences with fat-shaming influenced the best-selling app: "I think now that I couldn't have made this game if I hadn't been fat, if I hadn't known what it was to struggle with exercise and to feel like it wasn't for me."
Alderman recounts her own torturous childhood experiences with gym class that left her feeling like exercise was a form of punishment, and how things changed when she started to enjoy physical movement for its own sake, even if it didn't change a single number on the scale.
I learned that I could enjoy exercising as long as I didn't have to take part in team games where I was always letting someone down or being measured in a competition where I'd always come last. I discovered the joy of movement… I started to enjoy being in my body. I felt better. I felt good. It is a very different feeling to be in a fat body that is moving a lot to one that hardly moves at all. It feels like love. As simple and as joyful as that.
Alderman says she hopes her game will help more people discover what she learned about exercise: that it can be about pleasure, not punishment. In Zombies, Run moving your body feels rewarding, in ways that go beyond winning a competition or burning calories. Every time you head out on a mission, you learn a little more about the world you live in, get to know the people around you a little better, and slowly build your township into a thriving community. Thanks to Alderman, it doesn't matter whether you run a five-minute mile or a fifteen-minute one, you can still help save the world—and do it on your own terms.