We all know moving our bodies is good for us. It helps stave off disease, both physical and mental, and helps keep our bodies functional so we can go about our lives without injuring ourselves. It helps us sleep well and can give us a boost in mood and energy.

Over the last century, movement has become less a part of our daily lives due to our built environment of technological advances and conveniences. This means many of us need to be mindful about working more movement into our days. But does that mean we need to spend an hour in the gym every day?

How can we find balance between a sedentary lifestyle and obsessing over intense workouts?

“Joyful movement” is the approach to physical activity that proponents of Health at Every Size and intuitive eating use. In short, it’s moving our bodies in ways that feel good, without the intent to manipulate our appearance, “burn” calories or “earn” food. Eating and exercise go hand-in-hand when it comes to body acceptance and establishing sustainable, healthy lifestyle behaviors.

If you’ve ever had an unhealthy relationship with food, you may also have had an unhealthy relationship with exercise. Just as you don’t have to have a full-blown eating disorder to have disordered eating, you don’t have to go to the gym for 5 hours a day to have an issue with exercise. It can manifest in much more subtle ways.

The best kind of movement is the kind that feels good. Only you know your own body.

Getting out to the lakefront to watch the sunrise is one of my favorite ways to move.

Here are thoughts and habits I encourage you to challenge and leave behind:

Exercising to “burn” calories
Exercising to lose weight
Exercising to sculpt your body
Believing you must exercise at the gym to get benefits of movement
Adhering to an exercise regimen you don’t enjoy
Exercising so much that you do not feel well
Feeling inadequate that your body can’t perform a certain exercise, lift a certain amount of weight, run a certain speed, etc.
Thinking you’re too fat to … run, practice yoga, dance, etc.
Feeling guilty when you take a rest day
Feeling guilty when you engage in a type of movement other than what you think you should
Exercising a body part with an injury
Giving up on exercise if you take a few days off (or weeks, or months, or years)

 

Replace them with these thoughts and habits:

Exercise to feel good physically, mentally and emotionally
Incorporate a variety of movement into your day
Understand not all beneficial movement has to be formal exercise
Exercise in clothing and environments in which you feel comfortable
Allow yourself a day (or week) without much movement if that is what you need, guilt-free
Don’t use exercise as a way to “absolve” food choices
Choose a type of movement that feels right in the moment
Appreciate all that your body can do. (Even if it’s just breathing air and pumping blood)
Recognize the ways exercise makes you feel good that have nothing to do with your appearance.
Leave behind exercise media, professionals and gym cultures that makes you feel bad about yourself
Find an exercise professional you like to show you how to safely perform exercises you’re interested in learning

 

I’ve got more intuitive movement content coming to the blog soon. But tell me, what do you want to learn about having a healthier relationship with exercise?

 

Resources:

Exercise and the HAES Model (Part 1)

Intuitive Exercise from The Center for Change

 

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