Working out has become synonymous with weight loss or maintenance. That is, we assume that people only work out — that we should work out — to lose weight or to maintain our weight. This is often why exercise is thought of as a chore. As a necessary evil. As a punishment for eating dessert or consuming too many carbs or fat grams. As a way to burn calories. And nothing else.
No wonder many of us don’t want to do it. Our days are busy as it is. We have so many responsibilities as it is. Why would we fill our weeks with activities that make us miserable? With activities we don’t exactly enjoy? Activities that are shoulds or have-tos?
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Muhammad Talha
But this isn’t what exercise is all about. At all. Because when I say exercise, what I really mean is moving our bodies in any way that we actually do enjoy. I really mean any physical activity. Walking. Stretching. Yoga. Chair yoga. Strength training. Soccer. Golf. Swimming. Dancing. Biking. Karate. Gardening. Tai chi. Ping pong. Skipping with your kids. Skipping on your own (because why not?). Swinging on the swings. Hula-hooping.
Moving our bodies is a boon to our health and well-being. But when we think of exercise as a punishment or as a chore akin to scrubbing the floors, we miss out on the benefits. And these benefits are very individual. The key is two-fold, I believe. First, it’s important to find physical activities that you like and even love. Second, it’s important to understand why you like and love them, and keep that in mind. It’s important to understand why they’re powerful. For you.
Below are just some of the reasons why moving my body is wonderful for me. (And these movements include everything from yoga to walking to lifting weights. I personally love variety.) My reasons may be very different from your reasons. Either way, I hope they inspire you to come up with your own list. And I hope they remind you that life is way too precious, too short, to focus on activities that we dislike or despise.
- Moving my body empowers me. Every time I lift weights or do push-ups, I am erasing an “I can’t” that somehow got tattooed onto my body too many years ago and stained my spirit. I am shattering negative assumptions I’ve held about myself. I am standing taller. I am not shrinking. I am reminded of how much I can do.
- Moving my body calms me. It soothes my frazzled nerves and my sensitive senses.
- Moving my body energizes me, giving me fuel for other activities.
- Moving my body clears my mind of the cobwebs of racing thoughts, confusion and endless worries. It helps to put my concerns into perspective.
- Moving my body helps me to make wiser decisions.
- Moving my body boosts my mood, providing me with a delicious dose of endorphins.
- Moving my body helps with circulation.
- Moving my body (outdoors) helps me connect to my natural surroundings and appreciate their splendor that much more.
- Moving my body, particularly when I’m practicing yoga, helps me to connect to myself. Because I am able to slow down, be still and simply be with myself. Exactly as I am. I am practicing self-compassion.
- Moving my body helps me sleep better.
- Moving my body gives me a much needed break from my mostly sedentary job as a writer.
- Moving my body is fun. Engaging in different exercises is another way to explore, play and learn new things.
- Moving my body helps me feel alive, awake and vibrant.
What are your favorite ways to move your body? (It’s OK if you don’t have any favorites just yet. Make a list of physical activities that sound fun, and then start experimenting. See what you like, what you love.) Why do you move your body? Why is it powerful for you?