Humans are born to move. Babies arrive with arms and legs in motion as they prepare to strengthen muscles for rolling and crawling. Upon becoming mobile, toddlers immediately begin exploring and expanding their environment. Then kindergarten comes around and we hear “crisscross applesauce please sit down”.
It is at this tender young age that life becomes less about movement and more about sitting still. As adults, we spend a significant amount of time in environments that not only limit physical activity but require prolonged sitting—at work, at home, and in our cars and communities. Layer on modern conveniences like Netflix, personal vehicles, and food delivery services and it is easy to see how inactivity is baked into our daily lives.
It takes an intentional and mindful act to find daily movement and physical activities that nourish the body and mind. Contrary to what many have been informed, movement does not need to feel super rigid, intense, or grueling. It is about moving the body in a way that makes you feel energized, joyful, and satisfied. Are you ready to take the next step to add more movement to your day?
Unpacking motivations and hesitations around exercise can be helpful as you begin.
- How do you feel physically when you move your body?
- What emotions come up for you during and after exercise?
- What is important to you about moving more?
- What would make it easier for you to choose exercise over other ways of spending time?
- How have you moved your body in the past that has brought you joy?
While exercise can change your physical appearance and that MIGHT be your motivation for getting started, exploring your “why” a bit deeper will strengthen your resolve to stick with movement for the long haul.
Joyful, life-enhancing movement can change your life in ways you might not have considered before. How might exercise impact your ability to sleep or concentrate? Is it an opportunity to meet new people or spend time outdoors? What influence might exercise have on your blood pressure or ability to manage stress? Consider the many benefits you hope to experience.
Once you have identified your “whys” for exercising, it is time to explore the type of activity that interests you. Understand that there is no one-size-fits-all fitness regime. Whatever you decide to do, choose an activity that you enjoy and can look forward to participating in most days. At least initially, select an activity that makes you feel comfortable and not awkward in your body. Consider activities you may have enjoyed in the past.
- Walking or hiking
- Shooting hoops
- Group fitness class
Next create a plan for when you will exercise. For many individuals, exercising first thing in the morning feels best while others find it more therapeutic to complete later in the day. Specify how many days each week you plan to exercise in the beginning. Consider your schedule and be clear about how much time you wish to devote to this new activity each week. Having a well thought out and realistic plan provides a roadmap that enables you to make movement a priority and to stay focused on the benefits that are most important to you.
Now it is time to put your plan in to action. Practice self-compassion as you begin. Movement may seem different than before and it may take time to master. Allow yourself space to feel comfortable and confident and reflect on how moving more makes you feel.
It is important to be flexible with your plan. Listen and respond to your body if it craves a rest day. Be open to the signals your body sends that might indicate an activity is no longer a good fit for you. It will be a lifelong process incorporating movement into your routine. Having awareness about how different activities make your body feel and how they impact your wellbeing will provide you with the information needed to modify and update your movement routine throughout the stages of life.
Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN