Reframing Exercise as Movement
Updated: May 16
When you think of exercise and physical activity, what thoughts and feelings come up? Are they positive and inviting, or are you getting feelings of dread and thoughts of spending hours at the gym on rigid workout routines each week?
I know for many people negative feelings and thoughts come up. We are conditioned to exercise to look good, to lose weight, to stay in shape to prevent or treat health conditions. But what if we reframed those negative thoughts into something more positive? What if we could workout for our health and also enjoy it?
That is where reframing physical activity and exercise as movement (or even intuitive movement or intuitive exercise... lots of positive words can be used!) can be helpful. Movement can help give us a sense of freedom and flexibility that other terms don’t always have. Movement gives us permission to do whatever the f*ck we want to move our bodies instead of doing what we think we “should” be doing.
Along those lines, we often forget that a lot of things can be considered movement. Walking, dancing, cleaning, playing with your kids - these are all examples of moving your body that can be enjoyable or tolerable to do. We don’t always enjoy cleaning - but we need to do it and it gets us up and moving.
But what about my health?
Of course we want to take care of ourselves and live long fulfilling lives. But we don’t have to miserable to do it or spend large amounts of time on it. My favorite motto for everything in life is “some is better than none” and to remember that rest days are super important too!
A few minutes of movement can still boost your mood and benefit your health. A study I recently read showed that participants who performed vigorous exercised 2 minutes per day saw a reduced risk of death, cancer, and heart disease. My favorite takeaway though, is this quote from an article discussing this study:
“The biggest take home is that people should feel liberated by the fact there’s no one size fits all or mandatory way you must follow to achieve the benefits of exercise on your health.”
Not everyone has time, energy, or the desire to do traditional weight lifting or cardio. We can see benefits from small and enjoyable changes to our lives.
How can I track progress without focusing on weight?
This is another dilemma we often face when we want to reframe our thoughts about exercise and movement. How do I know if I am progressing if I don’t want to hyper-focus on weight or my body size?
Let’s look at some options. If you enjoy weight lifting, keep track of your reps and/or weight lifted. Are you able to increase reps or amount each time you lift? If you’re into walking or running, track your time and/or speed. Are you seeing improvements each week?
If you don’t care so much about numbers - we can also focus on feelings or management of various health conditions. How do you feel during and after your walk? Do you feel less out of breath? Are you in a better mood, did you sleep better that night? If you have diabetes, is your A1c consistently lower? Are your cholesterol labs normal at your next doctor appointment? There are so many ways to track our progress with our desired activities and it’s also okay if you don’t care to track at all.
There is no one right or wrong way to do movement. Checking in with your intentions, mood, and how you're feeling can all be helpful tools in reframing exercise/movement for you!
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