“Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do.” This commonly used quote amplifies what fitness is when we don’t connect it to body image, calories, or a weight and size. How you think about fitness and physical activity can affect your motivation to work out. It can also impact how successful you are at building healthy exercise habits.
Mindful movement and health at every size encourages tuning out thoughts about what exercise should be. Instead, it focuses on movement that feels good for you. This is also called intuitive movement, or mindful exercise, and encompasses so much more than what most people think about fitness.
Any kind of regular exercise and movement can fall under the intuitive exercise umbrella. This means walking, gardening, lifting weights, playing outside, hiking, etc. Traditional types of workouts can fall into this category too, as long as they are activities you enjoy doing.
If you dread doing a particular type of physical activity, don’t do it. Don’t spend your time doing aerobic activities, like a HITT class, if it’s something you dread. The easiest way to be consistent with any form of exercise is to do what you enjoy.
Intuitive exercise is also about listening to your body’s needs. Some days, you may need to practice relaxation yoga to focus on your mental health. Other days, your body may crave an activity that gets your heart rate up.
When you focus on creating an intuitive fitness plan, you have flexibility over the movement you do.
Health at Every Size, or HAES, shifts the focus from body weight to overall health. HAES encourages body acceptance, intuitive eating, and intuitive exercise. The HAES approach values bodies of all sizes and encourages more social support for body acceptance.
HAES principles emerged as a response to weight bias in our health system and the lack of success that traditional diet and exercise principles have had regarding overall health. We also want to disentangle body weight from a person’s perception of their overall health and self-esteem.
When physical health is attached to a certain bodyweight, many individuals take part in disordered eating or excessive exercise to attain the weight goal.
Fitness programs that move away from body weight goals can lead to a lower risk of injury and avoid burnout. Health benefits of HAES-based programs include improved:
Intuitive movement means enhancing your awareness of how you’re moving. This often means slowing down and being more mindful.
Keep in mind that intuitive movement means different things to different people. That’s the point of staying with this mindset. You get to let go of rules and move your body in ways that feel good to you.
It may challenge you at first to understand what your body needs, especially if it’s been a long time since you’ve felt connected to your body.
Remember, every day is different, so your fitness needs may be different. You may opt for something high-intensity one day, then go on a more relaxed walk another day. Both types of movement are valid when you’re moving for you, not for a look.