That's right: exercise is not always helpful, in fact, it can be harmful to your health, and not in some crazy I-can't-believe-I-ran-that-far or lifted-that-car-over-my-head kind of way. This does not mean I’m never going to move again.
Let's learn more!
What makes something healthy for you?
My answer: When they are supporting you. When doing them becomes an investment in you. It’s building you up, and helping you. We can apply this to education, new experiences, food, and yes, movement.
First, I like to call it movement, not exercise. Exercise has a connotation that there is an end-goal – sweat, health outcomes, or winning.
Movement is using our bodies - and ultimately our bodies don’t care if we are in competition (with ourselves or others). Our bodies need movement - to use it or lose it (think about flexibility, conditioning, aerobic capacity – if you’ve ever been out of commission for a week with the flu, pneumonia, or an injury, you know the difference when you get moving again - your body needs time to recondition to where it was before).
So how is exercise NOT healthy or helpful for you?
#1: When you’re using it to punish yourself
"I have to work out because I ate…cookies/pasta/the whole thing." Meh. No you don't. Punishment does not work.
#2: When it’s mandatory
“My mom said I have to exercise for an hour each day.”
“I have to ride my bike for an hour each day.”
Seriously? Who said?
Do you enjoy things when they are mandatory?
Having come from a career in the Navy, I will let you in on a little secret: the twice-annual feats of strength (aka, the physical readiness test) is miserable. It’s an exercise in proving yourself to someone else. And it’s mandatory. Ick. It’s the reason why I no longer like running - because I had to run for my PRT and it was the only reason I was doing it. I didn't like it. When I was able to move for me… for enjoyment, for strength, for my mental health, that’s when movement became healthy & helpful for me.
#3: When there’s shame or guilt.
“I HAVE to exercise because otherwise I’m gonna take heat from my mom, my dad, my coach.”
“I HAVE to or else I’m going to gain weight.”
It sounds like the truth, but in fact, it’s a story you’re telling yourself that is NOT helpful for you to enjoy movement. These are all things we tell ourselves to push ourselves into exercise, and ultimately we do not stick with things that we have to push ourselves into. The willpower runs out, and we wind up HATING the activity.
Stop exercising for beating yourself up, for shame, or because you have to.
Movement is helpful for your body - but not because I tell you so.
How do you feel when you move your body?
How can you move your body and enjoy it?
How do you want your body to feel? Strong? Free? Lighter? Movement can actually help with all of those, not because you’re changing weight, but because you’re connecting with your body and ENJOYING it.
Disclaimer: While Wendy Schofer, MD discusses health and wellness, this is not medical advice and she is not your doctor. Optimal health is achieved in combination with your physician, who collaborates with you for your individual health. Talk to your doctor. And tell them about Family in Focus. Mwah!