exercising for joy


It’s Time Exercise Gets a (Joyful) Makeover 

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Finding the time and motivation to engage in joyful movement can be difficult if we have spent most of our life in a toxic, on-again, off-again relationship with exercise. People are often told to exercise simply to compensate for what they eat. Even if they hate every minute of it, people exercise out of obligation and with the hope that they can change their bodies. When we exercise simply because we aren’t meeting diet culture’s standards of health and beauty, it comes at the expense of our happiness and well-being. 

What if we could transform our unproductive and shameful relationship with exercise into one that excites us and brings us joy? Exercising doesn’t have to be an intense workout that gets our hearts pumping and sweat dripping. It can look different for everyone. One way we can get our bodies moving without the pressure surrounding exercising is to engage in joyful movement.

What is Joyful Movement?

Joyful movement is pretty simple when you break it down. It’s all about finding pleasure and enjoyment in the ways you choose to move your body. That’s the thing: joyful movement is all about choice. There is never an obligation to participate in movement. It’s important to listen to what your body feels it needs at the moment. Some days that might look like running or dancing, other days it might look like taking a yoga class or stretching, and sometimes it means taking a day to rest. 

5 ways to Incorporate Joyful Movement 

1. Find an Activity that Sparks Excitement

Exercising shouldn’t feel like a punishment. If you are dreading your activity and wishing it was over the whole time you’re doing it, then it might be time to try something else. Find an activity that sounds fun and is something you can look forward to. If you don’t know where to start, consider trying classes either in person or via online streaming videos. Figure out what feels best to your body and makes you excited. 

2. Check In with your Body 

It’s important to take it slow when you first start up a new activity and don’t push yourself too hard. Respect your body’s boundaries and check in with yourself before, during, and after your activity. How does your body feel? Do you feel stronger and more energized after your activity? Do you feel rundown and exhausted? If you feel extremely fatigued or in pain, you may have overworked your body and need to rest or check in with your body during activity in the future. 

3. Be flexible

Eliminate the all-or-nothing mentality built up around exercising. You do not need to create an intense exercise regime that neglects rest. Rest days are so valuable as they allow for our bodies to recover and heal from our activities. Creating a strict schedule for working out causes us to feel guilty when we don’t follow it. Instead, be understanding and kind to yourself. You can develop a loose structure to maintain your goals while still being flexible with your schedule by checking in each day and seeing if that activity still sounds like a good idea! 

4. Make it Convenient 

It can feel almost impossible to make time for movement in our busy schedules. One way to incorporate more movement is to make it easier for yourself. Physical activity doesn’t have to look like an hour-long gym session, but rather whatever is realistic to incorporate. This might look like going on a walk with your friend the next time you want to catch up or doing a workout from home when you don’t have time to go to the gym or take a class. This might mean taking a quick 10-minute walk whenever you find yourself needing a break at work. Remember that all movement is valid, and it does not matter how long you do it or how intense it is. 

5. Move with Friends

One of the easiest ways to make movement more enjoyable is doing it in the company of those you love spending time with. Physical activity with a buddy will not only help with motivation and consistency, but it can be so much more fun. Knowing you get to spend time with a friend can make movement something you look forward to. Also, it’s much easier to try new activities when you’re not alone – so call up one of your friends to join you in trying something new! 

Learning to move our bodies in ways that feel good to us allows us to heal our previously unhealthy relationships with exercise.

By implementing joyful movement into your life, exercise will no longer feel like something to check off the to-do list. It can truly be something you love and look forward to because you are listening to and honoring your body. By participating in activities that make you happy and feel good to your body, you are more likely to move regularly!

We know that with regular movement, our bodies benefit from a number of physical and mental health benefits, such as:

  • Improved sleep
  • Lower levels of stress and anxiety
  • Increased energy
  • Improved mood
  • Higher bone density
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Better balance and flexibility
  • Reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
  • Increased memory and mental clarity

Joyful Movement Idea Bank!

  • Walking with a friend or while on the phone
  • Going shopping 
  • Riding a bike 
  • Rollerblading or skateboarding 
  • Water Aerobics 
  • Water Sports: Surfing, Paddleboarding, Kayaking 
  • Taking your dog on a walk 
  • Playing with your children 
  • Gardening
  • Stretching 
  • Joining a sports team 
  • Yoga or pilates 
  • Going for a hike in nature
  • Cleaning your house
  • Taking a dance class – or just put on some music and dance at home
  • Taking the stairs 
  • Go bowling with family and friends

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