This is the time of year when we all find ourselves motivated to really start moving our bodies. Our New Year’s Resolutions are set. We’ve renewed our gym memberships and head off every morning to overcrowded weight rooms and fitness classes. Why though, does this motivation wane so rapidly? We all know that by February, the crowds will thin and most of those gyms will be back to normal. Why do we give up on exercise so easily?

At AH, we know that hidden beneath many New Year’s Resolutions is a sense of guilt. We often see people who view January as a time to make up for how they ate over the holidays. This mentality will never lead to long-term results since it is more about punishment than overall health. In this blog post, I’d like to talk about what exercise is really about.

Why Exercise?

First and foremost, exercise is not about burning calories. Dr. Ludwig’s recent study (link) proved that what you eat is more important that how many calories you consume. Not all calories are alike. You can hear Dr. Ludwig discuss these findings on Science Friday. Click here!

Exercise has many known benefits that don’t involve calorie burning at all. For example, exercise can reduce depression, enhance muscle tone, strength and flexibility, lower insulin levels, improve digestion so you get more out of the foods you eat, increase motivation, and make you feel good. None of these are going to happen though if you view exercise as a punishment since you are far more likely to abandon your exercise regimen after a few short weeks. That’s why we’ve developed the idea of Joyful Movement. Find a way to move your body that makes you feel good.

Joyful Movement: How Do You Know What Exercise is Right For You?

At AH, we love helping people rethink their relationship with food, but your relationship to exercise is equally important. We probably don’t talk about it enough. Do you think of exercise as a punishment or a way to repent for bad eating habits? Do you find yourself thinking things like: If I eat this food, then I’ll have to run an extra mile tomorrow. Or: I’ll burn this many calories so I can eat this food tonight.

These are not healthy thought processes. Rather than thinking up ways you should “exercise,” why not just figure out ways to move your body. This could be simply taking walks with your dog every night or dancing in the kitchen when you clean up after your meals. Moving your body in ways you love will have all the benefits of exercise without the sense of penance. Adding joyful movement to your life can increase your bone density, improve your balance, decrease your blood sugar, and best of all, make you feel energized for the rest of your day. However you add joyful movement to your life, you should end up feeling motivated to accomplish all the tasks of your daily life. You shouldn’t feel so wiped out that you need to crash on the couch for two days.

Ways to Move Your Body More

  • Walk your dog
  • Enjoy short walks after each meal
  • Dance while cooking and cleaning
  • Take dance lessons
  • Play with your kids/grandkids
  • Walk to the store or park far from the entrance
  • Take the stairs
  • Garden
  • Ride your bike
  • Find something you love doing!

Weight Loss is a Happy Side Effect

Adding joyful movement to your life supports weight loss for most people, but weight loss is by no means the most important part of moving your body. Being healthy is about so much more than weight loss, including getting adequate sleep and learning to de-stress. Adding more movement to your days will help with both.

What is your Joyful Movement? Let us know in the comments!

  • Nancy LaJoie Greenlaw

    My joyful movement is hiking. Shortly after I retired, more than five years ago, I began hiking with a group of strangers. I did know one person in the group, but no one else. In the interest of time and space, I will jump to the present. I now belong to three hiking groups, and I began a Saturday hiking group called Saturday Sloggers. Of the three other groups to which I belong, my favorite is NETTLES (New England Trail Traipsing and Lunch Eating Seniors). Unfortunately, I am not currently not able to hike. I tore my Achilles nearly two-and-a-half years ago, but continued to hike. Predictably, I caused more damage, and have been on the sidelines off and on for nearly two years, and will continue to be, until my injury is totally healed. I am fortunate to be able to meet my hiking friends for lunch from time to time, and we socialize in ways other than hiking. I am very hopeful that I will be out on the trails in the months ahead, but I have learned to listen intently to my body. All in all, I am truly blessed.

  • Nan Cohen

    Balkan dancing! You can put as little or as much energy into it as you have at the moment. Wakes up the body. Before you know it you have been moving your feet and arms regularly for a couple of hours. Learning new dance patterns is good for the brain. (I’m 62)