Move Your Body

Exercise is recommended for everyone


Land sakes, it’s like a DIRTY WORD, isn’t it? There’s so much angst and anxiety, social tension and expectation piled into that one word that it hurts to even ponder it. Which is a real shame because, exercise? It’s really good for you. Yes, you. All of you. Pretty much without exception. In fact, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and use the S-word: To keep it in good, working condition for as long as possible, you should find ways to regularly move, groove, and exercise your physical form.

There are studies – oh, are there ever studies – that talk about how fat people can be fit and thin people can be less fit, and we can argue all day long about the finer points of those studies. But let’s not. Let’s instead focus on the fact that – aside from the physically fragile, infirm, and extremely elderly – exercise is recommended for everybody. That doctors, nutritionists, fitness instructors, wellness coaches, scientists, and experts of all stripes want EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US to incorporate regular movement into our lives. They don’t care how much or little we weigh, how old we are, what we do for a living, if we’re differently abled, pregnant, or woefully uncoordinated. They want us to exercise because it keeps our systems strong, keeps our bodies in good repair. There are no studies recommending sedentary life or advising the avoidance of exercise.

And those experts? They also don’t care if we’re new mothers, working multiple jobs, suffering from depression, facing new or difficult physical challenges, or any number of other factors that may make exercise seem even more difficult, daunting, and chore-like. They still point out that cardio is good for our hearts and lungs, and women are more likely to suffer from heart disease. They still remind us that weight training is especially important to women because we lose bone density with age. They may even gently suggest that regular exercise can help with mood and stress levels.

And here’s the thing: Exercise doesn’t have to mean three sweaty hours in a humanity-packed gym. Exercise doesn’t have to hack a giant chunk off of your already-scarce free time. Exercise doesn’t even have to be “exercise!” Think of it this way: Make sure you move your body – vigorously and enthusiastically – a couple of times each day. Forget exercise, just move. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Park further from your destination and get a little walk in. Do some wall push-ups. Go out dancing on Saturday night instead of hitting a bar or restaurant. Bench press a toddler and watch her giggle with glee. Plank or do a few sit-ups during your favorite TV shows. Check these recommendations if you’re facing a physical challenge or healing from an injury. Exercise can be a burden, but movement can be easy and fun. It can! No, I’m serious, you guys. And besides all that, it’s a key component to long-term self-care.

Image courtesy ian

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29 Responses to “Move Your Body”

  1. Knittinchick

    i just started doing heavy bag workout (aka kickboxing) and LOVE it… it’s really helped to spice things up in the middle of winter… and excellent stress release! I also love that in addition to the ultra fit in my class, there’s all shapes and sizes and it’s not competitive for body image-it’s more about what you can do than how you look!

  2. Cristina

    They fit nicely around my routines, and barely take any time off them. The problem is remember to do them, of course, but I’m getting better. In fact, I am going to do some now.

  3. Cynthia

    I find long sessions of cardio drudgerous, unless I’m dancing. Running is just…torture. I hate it, and when I got caught up in the running culture and tried to increase my distance, when I was younger, I did some seemingly permanent damage to my hip.

    Fortunately I found the paleo-sphere last year, and since then I have really tried to optimize my exercise for long-term functionality instead of weight loss. Once I realized that weight is nearly all about the kinds of food you eat and exercise is mainly about maintaining and improving abilities, I could decouple exercise from the whole poisonous calories in/calories out machine, and just do enough to keep my body happy. Now I do a spinal workout called T-Tapp every day, and I follow a program of bodyweight exercises to maintain strength, and I only go out for a walk or go to Zumba class when I’m really feeling it, instead of treating it as a daily duty that I must do in order to “earn” my food.

  4. Ardyn

    Thank you SO MUCH for this. I feel like lately there’s this tendency to see exercise as “a way to get thin” — both by the Thin Police, which is about what I’d expect, but more troublingly by a lot of supposedly body-positive sources. Exercise is a way to get strong and have fun, and we shouldn’t let the Thin Police politicize it or own it.

    My advice, as someone who went from “totally sedentary” to “highly active” over the past three years: Learn what exercise is fun for you, and think of ways to make it fun. I tried lots of different exercise programs with varying results, but to my astonishment, the one I’ve turned out to love and stick with is weightlifting! Trust me, if you’d told me five years ago I’d be an avid weightlifter, I’d have laughed in your face. But it turns out I enjoy the challenge. I also now only watch a few of my favorite TV shows while I’m doing cardio. I just bring it along on my iPod to the gym and instead of watching the usual boring stuff on the overhead TVs, I treat myself to my weekly “Scandal” fix, or a good episode of “Elementary.” 45 minutes of cardio, done before I know it — and it’s been a pleasure! These things have made a HUGE difference in my body and in my life. I didn’t do them out of any sense of obligation to be thin/pretty/etc. — I did them for me, and that’s what makes it fulfilling.

  5. ClaraT

    My work-outs are not ‘non-traditional’ but my tip for exercising is a change in attitude.

    I think the key is finding something you love (or can grow to love) that is convenient (or not-too-inconvenient). Exercise has to feel like “Today I *get to*…” (dance, run, swim, box, walk, hike…). If it feels like “Today I *really should*….” then immediately exercise is one more chore that you ought to work in somehow. Exercise must be a joy in some way, or you just won’t do it long-term.

    Like Cynthia, my swimming and biking have nothing to do with weight management or making my body look a certain way. Instead, my swimming is about breath and meditation, while biking is the way I catch up on the news with my girlfriends. Oddly, I find exercise gives me more energy, not less, at least to a point; when it does make me tired, it’s a ‘good tired.’

  6. Bree Bronson

    With two small children exercising really is a matter of time. I don’t even dream of going to the gym or aerobics right now but I came up with one thing I can do even with a small baby: running. It has helped me in thousand ways: I lost my excess weight (15 kg), I became fitter and got better condition, I got new meaning in my life, my mental health became heaps better, I got fresh air, I got new interests as I started dreaming of running longer distances and finally I ran a marathon. I can recommend it! And oh, how I hated it first…

  7. Konstanze

    I started walking everywhere if possible. Made me realize that what seemed like impossibly long distances before are, in fact, just 25min by foot. What an odd thing that is! Also, since most of my days are spent writing at a desktop right now, I take half an hour everyday to take a short walk. It’s the same route everyday, but I found it elevates my mood immensely.

    • Lizzi

      I agree–taking a walk is the easiest thing for me to work into my day. If I’m anxious or upset about something and need some time to myself, I take a walk. If I want to reward myself for getting those chores done that I really didn’t want to do, I take a walk. If it’s a bright and sunny day in the middle of a dreary winter, I take a walk!

      I have been meaning to get back into yoga, though. I really enjoyed it, but I got out of the habit a while ago and really want to start doing it again…I sleep so much better when I get all those cramped muscles loosened up.

  8. alice

    I was never into exercise as exercise, but since I haven’t owned a car ever and live in pedestrian friendly cities I do get a lot of unintentional exercise in. I’ve been very thin my whole life so I guess I never thought I ‘needed’ to. However, about a year and a half ago I got really into Bar Method and have amazed myself by going consistently ever since. And it would be a lie to say that I haven’t also loved how my body has changed since starting the class. I haven’t gotten bigger/smaller, but somehow my body is filling out my clothes differently. I feel stronger and sleep better. This is a somewhat complex topic (it really shouldn’t be) and is fraught with landmines so I don’t want to make anyone feel bad. But, the new changes in how I look (and feel!) are big motivators to continue exercising. I’ve NEVER hated my body; in fact, I never thought too much about it one way or another so I’m not saying that my looking a certain way is tied to how I feel. But at the same time, I am sort of saying that, because I’ve been pleased with these changes. Hope you guys know what I mean!

  9. D

    Roller derby is my excercise and my obsession. I also deeply love swing dancing, though I don’t do it as often as I would like. I wasn’t super into physical exertion before I found swing dancing in early college- it really did help to find something that I love.

    My time has been fairly restricted lately though, so to make sure that I do *something* every day, I’m trying to develop the habit of holding a plank for at least 30 seconds, and doing at least 5 pushups. I can accomplish this in one minute before I go to bed, and so far I’ve been able to stick with it.

  10. Anamarie

    I enjoy Jillian Michael’s DVD workouts – like Ripped in 30, 30 Day Shred, Shred it with Weights, etc. She is not for everyone – a lot of people may like the workouts, but can’t stand her. Whatever. You can always mute the audio, play your own music, and just follow along. I like that the workouts are relatively short, about 30+ minutes, incorporate short bursts of intense strength, cardio, and abs, and require minimal equipment. Most use a mat and some light weights, although I am now up to 10 lb weights (started at 2, moved to 5s, now at 10). It’s really nice to roll out of bed at 5, go downstairs to my basement, and start working out by 5:15, done by 6, and moving on with the day! If I watch what I eat and drink, I lose weight fairly easily combined with the workout.

  11. dustwindbun

    I will be following this discussion with interest, because I find the whole enthusiasm-for-movement absolutely baffling. It seems so … wasteful and first-world-problems: we have to come up with extra fake-work to do because our lives are so luxurious. It feels like a slap in the face to all the people out there without enough to eat: “hey, not only do I already eat more food than I need to fuel my daily activities, I’m going to add extra activities that require me to need even more fuel, fuel that you struggle to even get enough of.” Plus, as someone with an as-yet-unidentified fatigue condition, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be cutting out of my life in order to spend that energy on exercise even if I did decide to – I mean, I have just barely enough energy to go to work, go to school, and keep my house clean enough so my cats and I don’t get any sicker.

    So yes, my hope is that this discussion will give me ideas, but I know at the very least, it will be interesting to see how “normal” people live!

    • Anne

      I have fibromyalgia so I totally get the fatigue issue. I only have a certain amount of energy each day so why spend it on exercise? However, I have found Mindfulness Based Stress Reducation Yoga by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He has a whole routine done laying on a yoga mat. He uses very non-judgmental language to gently guide you toward movement. I find that moving slowly and carefully while listening to the messages my body gives me about how much I should be doing really helps me feel in touch with my body and does not feel like “exercise.”. However, it confers the benefits of exercise – better sleep, less pain, less depression, more energy. So not all movement needs to be exercise to be beneficial for our bodies. Slower is better is what I have learned about my body.

    • shebolt

      I understand that you are in a bad situation with your fatigue situation, but I’ve never heard exercise referred to as a first world problem, or something frivolous before. It is first-world, because so many people in developed nations have sedentary jobs and our bodies don’t get the movement we need. As a result, we develop all sorts of health problems related to our sedentary lifestyles. But it’s not like we should all stop trying to exercise, just because people in developing nations don’t have enough food.

      I hope you find an answer for your fatigue. I know that when I don’t get regular and consistent aerobic exercise, I get fatigued and barely make it through each day. Not that your problem is related to lack of exercise, since fatigue can be caused by a whole slew of medical problems, but don’t assume that you’ll never have enough energy to move your body frivolously.

  12. Heather

    My most frequent exercise is running. Like Clara said above, it’s convenient (just walk out the door) and I do love it. It’s also becoming social – I run with friends once or twice a week, and I almost always run with my dog. This past year, I’ve run 2 half marathons and I really like working toward that goal, such a great sense of accomplishment.

    My favorite exercise is mountain biking. For my husband and I, this is a weekly “date” – we never hire a sitter to go to dinner or a movie, but we get someone to watch our son for a few hours every weekend and hit the trails every weekend. Outside, fresh air, lots of stops for conversation, it’s been great for our marriage.

    My most non-traditional exercise is playing on the playground with my 7-year-old son. We do follow the leader, hide and seek, race each other or race his toys down the slide, I try to climb every structure at least one but otherwise just have fun with him.

  13. bubu

    Echoing the other comments that disconnecting exercise and weight loss is key for finding exercise you enjoy and keeping with it. In my case it also happens to be true — I think exercise helps maintain where I am, but has no effect on weight (though definitely on tone). But the reasons I exercise now are for energy and flexibility and positive outlook, and to avoid achiness, stiffness, sluggishness, stress and just overall crabbiness. I don’t always even realize how much I am benefitting from it until I don’t do it for a few days and feel the difference. My main love is running, outside, with no headphones, but just me and the sky and trees, early in the morning before anyone else is up. But this time of year is dark and cold, and in these months I work out in my living room in those early hours, with DVDs – switch between Jillian Michaels work you crazy hard but feel like a rock star after, and yoga, which I am doing more and more. Love “Aim True Yoga” – physically engaging and challenging but also focuses a lot on the mental aspects. Both yoga and running are for me meditative, relaxing and energizing all at once.

  14. Kate

    Thanks for this post! I used to get discouraged that I couldn’t get motivated to go to the gym (my gym is cramped, dark, and sweaty), but I find ways to work exercise into my daily routine. In fact, I now walk 2/3 of the way to work–about 1.5 miles–instead of taking public transit. Three miles of incidental walking isn’t too bad, in my opinion 😉

  15. Sue

    I used to run regularly when I lived in the UK as I belonged to a running club so for me it was a social event. Some runners were more serious, but my friends and I used to run round the parks chatting, laughing and enjoying our surroundings. Now that I live in Spain I don’t really run but I walk a lot as we don’t have a car here. I also go to a Sevillanas class with a Spanish friend and we spend an hour dancing (or trying to!) and laughing with our teacher. At home, for when the weather is bad, I have a selection of exercise DVDs but usually I put on the Zumba ones as I love dancing.

  16. Becky

    Even if you’re seriously ill, you can exercise! My husband’s been going through cancer treatment and got some bad infections. He had a bone marrow transplant last month. His doctors encourage him to excercise every day, even when he is in the hospital. For him that meant putting on a heavy-duty microbe filtering mask and walking through the upper (less occupied) floors of the hospital to the day-appointment area, flying a mini remote-controlled helicopter for a few minutes, then walking back to his room. Standing, bending, and walking for 20 minutes was all he could muster, but doing this once or twice a day made a huge difference to his mood, fatigue level, and ability to tolerate his treatements, keep his appetite OK, etc.

    Once for two days, he was in an extra amount of pain and did not get up to do his walks; his nurse that evening noticed “crackles” in his lungs that indicate that conditions are right to get pneumonia. She read him the riot act, and 10 minutes later his slippers were on and he was out for a walk. Bless her! (And him.)

    I’m not a stellar exerciser myself, but my favorite activity is walking, especially long-distance hiking, but really any walk, any time, anywhere makes me happy.

  17. LK

    A great way to get cardio without boredom is Dance Dance Revolution or Zumba.

  18. shebolt

    I’m biased because I’m somewhat obsessive about exercise. I work out 7 to 10 hours each week. I split my time between bicycling and tennis, with some strength training worked in. I feel so much better when I’m consistent with my workouts.

    My advice to everyone who claims to hate exercise is – you’re doing it wrong! As mentioned in this post, exercise should not be a chore. Find something you enjoy, and you’ll find that it’s easy to fit into your life.

  19. Michelle

    I love to move, I always have.
    When I was younger, it was horses, hockey and orienteering.
    Most recently, it’s been bikes, yoga and ice skating.

    I can’t imagine my life without movement in it, which is why I’m really struggling with being injured!

  20. Mandy

    I have been exercising about 5 times a week for a year now, and while, yes, I’ve lost weight blah blah blah, I’ve really kept it up to deal with my anxiety issues. I’ve always been a slightly anxious person, and this summer it got ramped up after leaving my job and friends to move halfway across the country to start grad school. My long-term boyfriend and I broke up at the same time, so I was a MESS to say the least. One of the things that really made me feel better was getting my body really moving. Running is great for that (especially if you listen to awesome music or podcasts). I’ve also fallen in love with zumba, which I try to do at least twice a week. So thank you, exercise, for helping me not be crazy! 🙂

  21. BamaCarol

    I’m one of those people that has heart disease – probably because not only did my father have it but I have led a mostly sedentary life. I was fortunate; they found my blockage when I went in for pre-surgery testing to have a knee replacement. So last summer I had a triple bypass at age 54. I had a 70%, 90% and 100% blockage. So I was blessed that they found this. Since then I have done cardio exercise 2-3 times a week and done swimming 2-3 times a week and I do not see myself ever stopping. When I started the swimming last October, I could barely float from one end of the pool to the other without being tired. However, I now swim laps. Slowly, but they are laps. I do this about 45 minutes to an hour and do the cardio an hour when I go.

    I had no symptoms that I can think of, except extreme fatigue so please, if you have that get checked out. There were nights when it took all of my energy to walk from my desk to my car, drive home and get into bed. I feel so much better now and realize that while eating better (and less) has helped me lose almost 50 pounds, it is the exercise that is helping to strengthen my heart muscles and keep me going. It is really as simple as that; eat less and exercise more, especially exercise.

  22. Megan Mae

    I like to turn on music and dance while I clean the house. It does three things at once.

    I try to always take the stairs. If I’m going to multiple shops in a shopping center, we park and walk to all of them.

    I’m still trying to work swimming back into my routine after getting a tattoo. While waiting for everything to heal up, I did go rollerskating! So much fun, though not as a low impact as swimming.

  23. Kristen

    Good point, though it kind of stings a little! One thing I do sometimes (when I remember) is to kind of dance while I’m in the shower. Tehre’s not a lot of space, and my hands and arms are busy washing my hair or whatever, but I move my feet around and just try to get some extra movement in. It’s a small thing but all those small things can add up. When I’m at work, I keep my lunch and snacks in the breakroom downstairs, while my office is upstairs. That way, I have to use the stairs at least a few times. I can’t just waste time going up and down the stairs for no reason, but making myself get for a short break, even to just go down there to get water, is a good thing.

  24. pelicanlake71

    Thank you for the simple message: “Just move.” I’ve been fighting depression and anxiety disorder plus some other physical issues, and the thought of exercising has been daunting for so many months. My doctor and therapist keep telling me “Get at least three cardiovascular workouts in every week” which tends to be the standard advice. Um, I’m a working mom…this seems impossible. So finally I decided to just bring a pair of running shoes to work. Just knowing I have them at my desk means I CAN go on a short walk around my building, or climb a few stairs. It’s so freeing to think that I can make a difference in my health without having to commit to full body sweaty workouts in a gym. At least not right now. Baby steps!

    Oh, and dancing with my toddler to an Elmo dance video is also quite doable: silly good fun!

  25. Kaye

    Thanks for this reminder and encouragement; I have been slacking for many months after surgery (but have no excuses now). I will say there is MORE than a “gentle” correlation between movement / exercise and positive mental state, at least for me. I can also personally attest that exercise gives me an increased sense sense of power and strength in how I view my life (extending beyond my muscles!). Moms, if you take care of yourself (body and soul), don’t forget you are also modeling this behavior for your kids to value these things, too. So it’s important to make the time for it.