Diet culture can lead you to believe that exercise is a tool for weight loss and nothing else. However, there’s no doubt that there are lots of great reasons to move your body.
When the sole reason you are exercising is to change your body, exercise can feel like a miserable chore. It doesn’t have to be this way! You can change your mindset and intentions around exercise. As a result, can exercise feel much more enjoyable. In addition, you will also be more likely to incorporate consistent movement in a way that feels good.
Here are some reasons to explore exercise other than the pursuit of weight loss.
It’s true that exercise is good for your health! Some benefits include, but are are not limited to: increased bone strength, decreased blood pressure, increased heart and lung strength, improved mood, and even prevention/delaying of cognitive decline associated with aging. (1)
That said, these health benefits can be achieved independently of weight loss. Try changing your intentions around movement to something positive. For example, view exercise as a way to live longer and be healthy for your family. Avoid negative intentions like exercising simply to change the way you look. With this, you may even find yourself more motivated to stick with a routine.
Regular physical activity is shown to help improve stress management. Some factors at play include improving mood, sleep, and the effectiveness of insulin. (1)
However, when the only motivation to exercise is to lose weight, this can actually increase stress. You may feel pressured to put exercise before your needs and feel guilty when you don’t. For example, missing out out on social events to go to the gym or, skimping on sleep to squeeze in a morning workout.
Give yourself freedom to intuitively choose the movement that feels good when it feels good. With this you are more likely to reap these benefits and avoid an unhealthy relationship with exercise.
There’s a reason we prefer to call it joyful movement. Whether it’s shooting hoops with your friends, dancing to your favorite music in a zumba class or listening to your favorite podcast while walking on a beautiful day, exercise can and should be fun.
We encourage you to turn off your fitness trackers and ask yourself this question– “if I were to choose a form of movement that would not alter my body in any way, what kind of movement would I choose”? Would you choose a team sport or a solo activity? Do prefer something fast paced like running or meditative like yoga? Do you like to exercise outside or indoors? Or do you like to mix it up day to day?
Remember, choose a form of movement based off of what you truly enjoy. As a result, you will find yourself looking forward to getting your heart pumping. You won’t be focused on counting down the minutes until your workout is over.
1) Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S and Elyse Resch MS, RDN, CEDRD-S, FAND