Aside from nutrition, our physical well-being and vitality is highly dependent on exercise. Exercise gets a bad rap. Many of us think this means wearing tight and uncomfortable clothes, spending hours at the gym, or embarrassing ourselves on complicated machines. Yoga classes can be intimidating and cycling class are too hard. But exercise is not about exhausting ourselves. This article is about raising our awareness regarding the negative thoughts we have about exercise and how those thoughts actually prevent us from achieving our health and wellness goals.
Why don’t we start by reframing “exercise” as “movement.” Many systems from around the world, including Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, Ayurveda, yoga, and several energy-healing schools, equate movement with life. When there is no movement, there is no life. Movement is what keeps us vital, engaged, energized, and free from pain.
Even if you are suffering from a medical condition characterized by pain that prevents you from walking, running, or lifting, observe how much worse the pain gets when you are stationary for long periods of time. How can you use movement to breathe in new life? Open up your heart? Change your mindset? Get a fresh perspective?
Let’s take a person who sits at a computer all day to work. Hours sitting with no break, compressing the low spine, hunching the upper back, straining the eyes, shortening the hip flexor muscles, and hindering blood flow throughout the body. What are the symptoms they complain of? Pain in the low back, tightness in the upper shoulders, possibly headache or inflexible hips. Over time and without movement, “life” in those areas seems to disappear and we are left with the results of stagnation: pain, tightness, inflexibility, discomfort, and weakness.
So maybe it isn’t an aerobics or spin class, but maybe just ongoing attention to how we can integrate more movement into the day. If we have an hour for lunch, maybe we take ten minutes of the break to go for a walk after we eat. Maybe if I have the choice to take the stairs, I can forego the elevator and get my heart rate up a bit. Maybe it means setting a timer so that at least once an hour, I take a break from sitting and typing and take a walk to the water fountain. It isn’t about suffering – its about movement and life and energy.
As you become aware of your body’s needs today, make the choice to respect the connection between movement and health. And, yes, if you can lift some weights, do some cardiovascular exercise, or spend some time breathing and stretching a few times a week, even better! But don’t think you have to be idealistic or a superhero to stay in good physical condition. You don’t have to suffer and you don’t have to be embarrassed. You just have to move. Even if it in the privacy of your own house, listening to your favorite song, and dancing any way you want to.
Billy Rosa is a Registered Nurse, Integrative Nurse Coach Visiting Faculty, University of Rwanda.