A kinder approach to staying fit

In an age when nutrition is leaning much more towards eating intuitively and mindfully, our approach to exercise is quite the opposite. It’s super structured, often practised in organised groups, and rather than being a natural part of daily life, where we are active, rather than busy, it’s just one more thing on our to-do list, such as getting to that spinning class, or spending time in gym.

We know exercise is good for our health and wellbeing, but it can become something we dread, force ourselves to do or struggle to do at all. But what if, instead, you practised being active and exercising more intuitively, by connecting with your body and listening to it to figure out what kind of conscious movement it needs on a daily basis?

This would mean asking questions like:

  • What does my body need today?
  • What type of movement do I feel like doing?
  • What type of exercise would benefit me most today?

Intuitive exercise is a much more flexible approach – and that might mean that some days you take part in rigorous exercise like cross-training or kickboxing, and on other days you take a walk in a beautiful place or do some yoga. But it stops being something you beat yourself with, and becomes something you look forward to instead.

Intuitive exercise is about changing the focus from ticking off so many days of this and so many days of that per week, to exploring movement that feels good in our bodies. It becomes a reward instead of punishment for your perceived nutritional sins.

Intuitive exercise also moves away from external goals such as losing weight or achieving a specific level of fitness, towards the health benefits which, in case you need reminding, are:

  • Lower stress and anxiety
  • More energy
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Improved bone density
  • Improved mood
  • Increased strength
  • Better balance
  • More stamina
  • Better memory and concentration span
  • Greater self-esteem

When you like what you are doing, you are more likely to continue working out – which is another benefit of doing what your body needs instead of dragging it through something it may be too tired to cope with on a particular day. And it helps you to break away from that all-or-nothing approach, where you decide you don’t have the time to do the recommended number of hours a week of exercise, so you don’t exercise at all.

It also removes all of the guilt you feel for missing a gym session. If you end up missing a workout, you cut yourself some slack, show yourself compassion and understanding for why you missed it and then move on, instead of being caught up in a guilt cycle that makes you say, “I might as well not bother.”

Finally, it helps you to be satisfied with any movement – even rest days – and puts your body in charge of what it truly needs: which is to move and exercise, certainly, but also to take some time to rest and recover.

Our bodies are made to move. We do need to exercise most days of the week, and keep ourselves strong, flexible and in good cardiovascular shape. But if exercise is becoming one more stick with which we beat ourselves, maybe it’s time to pause and recalibrate just a little so we work with our bodies instead of against them – and enjoy and appreciate just what our bodies can do.

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