Whether you exercise or not, you can’t deny the benefits of moving your body. It improves your mood, reduces stress, increases your energy levels, offers you a better night’s rest, strengthens your muscles and bones, helps with weight loss, reduces chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, improves skin health, boosts your sex life, increases your memory, decreases your risk of depression and more.
We’ve heard this time and time again. This is old news. The benefits of exercise have been scientifically proven repeatedly. There’s no denying it.
So why do we resist exercise so much?
What I have realized through my own experience and in observing others is we look at exercise as some sort of punishment. I hear women say, “I shouldn’t have eaten a piece of cake/a bun on my burger/potato chips. I better work out twice as hard tomorrow.”
These are not healthy thoughts. Eating and exercising should be two separate transactions. We eat to fuel our bodies. We exercise to become healthier and stronger.
Yes, eat healthy. Eat foods that are rich in nutrients, full of vitamins and fresh. But lordy, do not beat yourself up for eating something that tastes pleasurable to you. Simply enjoy it. Savor it.
Instead of looking at exercise as a punishment, look at it as a celebration. Be excited you are able to take a walk or go to the gym. Change your thought from “I have to do this” to “I get to do this.” Look at your movement with gratitude rather than resentment.
In the book “BARE: a Seven-Week Program to Transform Your Body, Get More Energy, Feel Amazing, and Become the Bravest, Most Unstoppable Version of You” written by Susan Hyatt, she encourages us to ask ourselves “What kind of movement feels like love today?”
Start looking at exercise with new eyes. If you want to reap all the benefits of exercise, you need to find ways to move your body that excite you and energize you: yoga, water aerobics. cross-fit, ballroom dancing, boxing, hiking, biking., hip-hop dancing, canoeing, horseback riding, pilates, kayaking, ropes course, walking, running, tennis, ziplining.
There are so many ways to move! Remember, you don’t have to choose just one. You can choose one, two, three or all. Mix it up. If you don’t like trying new things on your own, ask a friend to try new activities with you.
When you buddy-up, you will both hold one another accountable and motivate each other to push through.
If you are not moving your body at all, start small. Look at your calendar and pick three days this week you are going to move your body for 15 minutes. If you are feeling stressed out, take a walk. If you are feeling frustrated, sign up for a boxing class and punch it out. If you need to focus on the present moment, do some yoga. If you are feeling overwhelmed, go for a jog or run to clear your head.
Listen to your body.
Choose activities that feel like you are being kind to yourself. As Susan Hyatt writes, “Love is the ultimate personal trainer.”
Exercising should not be about moving the number on the scale. I used to exercise because I wanted to be a specific weight. I thought when I got to this magical weight, I would be happy and my days would be filled with utter bliss.
Ha! This thought makes me cringe and want to laugh hysterical now. Weight has nothing to do with happiness. I have reached my “skinny” number and still been miserable.
My “ah-ha” moment didn’t come until I understood the key is finding ways to move your body that are enjoyable and treat your body with love. When I started listening to my body and treating it kindly, this is when I started feeling confident, healthy and strong.
The goal of exercise should be getting all jazzed up about your increased clarity and energy. All the other benefits will come with it the more you move.
Getting off your blood pressure meds, losing the weight, losing the Debbie Downer attitude, increasing pep in your step – these are all ripple effects. They will start to happen without you even trying. You will be so happy moving and enjoying life, you will automatically reap the benefits.
Exercise should not be optional. You should be moving your body every day and filling it with energy and celebrating what your body can do.
So, stop reading this article. Get up! Start finding ways to move your body that feel like love and are fun. Get your booty moving.
Today is your day. As James Brown would say, “Get up offa that thing!”
If you would like a list of movement ideas and helpful links, go to my website. I can send you a PDF you can print out and start using.
Amy Wagenknecht is a teacher in the Waterloo School District and a life coach specializing in helping women live bigger, braver lives. For more information and to find out about her monthly events, visit amywagenknecht.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.