Healing our relationship to exercise is just as important as healing our relationship to food. Like food, many of us have a disordered relationship with exercise. Once we start to get the hang of intuitive eating, we want to start exercising again, but we are too scared of falling back into the diet mentality.
So how do we heal our relationship to exercise?
Like food, healing our relationship to exercise is about changing our mindset and approaching exercise from a place of nourishment and self-care, rather than with rules, punishment and black and white thinking.
Here are 4 steps to healing your relationship to exercise.
Step 1- Exercise for nourishment.
When we focus on the aesthetics of exercise such as weight loss, or calorie burning, it takes us away from how exercise makes us feel. It also gives us a negative relationship to it from the get-go, which makes it harder for us to engage in it.
Viewing exercise as of form of nourishment for the mind and body means we are more likely to stick with it. We can do this by focusing on all the amazing wellbeing benefits of exercise such as decreasing stress, increasing relaxation, boosting our energy levels, helping us sleep and making us feel good! Exercise also makes us healthier, stronger and happier.
Here are some of the wellbeing benefits of exercise.
Increases bone strength
Decreases blood pressure
Reduces your risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and some cancers.
Increases heart and lung strength.
Improves satiety cues and appetite regulation.
Improves learning and memory.
Fuels the brain’s stress buffers making us feel less stressed immediately after and helps us cope with future life stressors.
Increases our resilience to emotional stress
Step 2- Exercise for fun.
There is a misconception that exercise must be intense and hard work, but this is simply not true. We reap the same health benefits from joyful exercise as we do from higher intensity workouts. In fact, when we start focusing on moving our body for fun, we are more likely to stick to a regular routine.
What are your favourite ways to move your body?
If you are struggling to come up with ideas, then you can try the circle of fun activity.
The circle of fun activity
Grab a piece of paper and write down any movement activities that you enjoy now, or that you used to enjoy as a child. This can be anything from rollerblading, to shopping, to running. Once you have a list, circle all the activities that you would like to do now. Each week set a goal and pick one activity to try!
If you need some inspiration, then here are some ways to move your body for fun.
Go for a nature walk or hike.
Put on your favourite music at home and dance around.
Go for a bike ride around your local park or bike track.
Go out dancing for the night or try a dancing class.
Take a walking tour of your city or area. Create your own or join a tour. It is a great way to get to know your neighbourhood.
Try something new such as horse riding, indoor rock climbing, a yoga class or rollerblading.
Go to a water park, or theme park for the day.
Sign up for an obstacle course race or fun run with family or friends.
Have an active date with friends or family. Go trampolining, bike riding, roller blading or even put on an 80s dance workout video.
Blow up a balloon and chase it around the house (this is super fun-also a great one to do with the kids)
Have a pillow fight with your partner or family. This one really gets your heart rate up and it is so much fun!
Moving our body in a way that is enjoyable really is the key to healing our relationship to exercise.
Step 3- Exercise for self-care
As well as exercising for fun, moving our body from a place of self-care is key.
Here is how we can approach exercise as self- care.
Exercising in comfortable clothing and environments that are supportive.
Knowing it is ok to take a rest day, or to not exercise at all if you don't feel like it.
Saying goodbye to any social media or fitness professionals that make you feel bad about your body.
Not exercising to “burn calories” or “earn food”.
Not exercising through exhaustion or pain.
Appreciating the exercise that your body can do.
Exercising to what feels right in the moment.
Asking yourself before you exercise, what feels good for me today?