We live in a culture where we feel like we have to exercise in order to change our shape or appearance. Why can’t we move our bodies because we love them and want to care for them?
This idea might seem silly or simple but try and think about the last time you moved your body not because you “had” to, but because you wanted to.
Research shows that regardless of size or weight, we can see an improvement in mood, blood pressure, lipids, blood sugar, and stress levels with regular, daily activity. The effects of being active can also improve our body image. Although six-pack abs might seem like motivation enough to get moving, research has also shown that the fitness industry’s focus on physical appearance does very little to promote movement in a long-lasting, sustainable way.
What counts as movement?
Literally anything; walking, running, stretching, jumping, hiking, yoga, weight lifting, cycling, water aerobics, the list goes on and it’s all beneficial. Remember the phrase “no pain, no gain”? Thankfully, we don’t have to be in pain to receive the benefits of movement and all bodies can engage in life-enhancing physical activity in some aspect. Movement is fluid, there is no one right or set way to move. Take time to figure out what is purposeful and safe for you.
How the Health at Every Size® (HAES) approach is different
Sometimes, we may not want to move our bodies because of disability, pain, fear of judgment or lack of access to a safe environment. Whatever it may be, recognize that neither our size nor physical ability can determine our right to move. We are allowed to take up space, and learn and explore movement that brings joy, peace and strength. Dr. Lindo Bacon, the author of Health at Every Size: The Suprising Truth Abouth Your Weight refers to exercise/joyful movement as “life enhancing physical activity” because movement might not bring joy to some folks but the benefits of improved well being can be present regardless.
When we take the focus off appearance this creates a new space for healing with movement. Instead of thinking about how our body looks, we can try asking “how does my body show up for me?” Right now you might not like the extra skin on your arms but your arms allow you to hug the people you love and cherish. At this point you might resent your thick thighs but remember they allow you to crawl on the floor with your kids and take you to the places you want to go. Changing the way we think about our bodies can be the first step to an improved relationship with movement.
I love these movement mantras from the book Body Kindness by Rebecca Scrithcfield, RDN.
They may help you to view exercise in a new light:
-I respect my body and move my body every day as an intentional demonstration of love and respect for myself
-I might not always feel in the mood to exercise, but I can always commit to some movement that’s satisfying and good enough
-My movement is a judgment-free zone. There are no good or bad, right or wrong activities. My enjoyment counts more than calories burned
By Lindsey Kelly, RDN
This blog is co-authored by Synergy's team of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, Licensed Massage Therapists, and Diabetes Educators practicing in Bend, Oregon. As providers following Health at Every Size® (HAES) and Body Trust® philosophies, they strive to help EVERY BODY thrive.