“When it comes to health and well-being, regular exercise is about as close to a magic potion as you can get”–Thich Nhat Hanh
Over the past few years, I’ve encountered a number of people who say they can’t exercise. This hurts my heart because these are genuine beliefs often imposed upon them at a young age by well-meaning individuals, misinformation, and/or media imaging. Exercise is free and accessible to all. No one should feel like, “I can’t exercise.” We all have an inner-athlete waiting to be freed! It is how we define athletes, and exercise, for that matter, that needs to be changed.
According to Merriam-Webster.com, there is only one definition for the word, athlete. It reads that an athlete is “a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina.” This is where I think our mindset often goes when we think of starting some form of exercise. Personally, I know that is where my mind often goes.
I can’t tell you how many times I have thought or said, “Well, I wasn’t athletic in school,” or “I didn’t play sports in school.” I am pretty sure that I am not the only one who thinks or makes such comments.
Why do we do that? Why do we define ourselves as adults based upon four to eight years of our life? It would be like me claiming to be a mathematician because I spent so many years during my formative schooling taking math classes. I am no more a mathematician than I am not athletic.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Look up the definition of word exercise. Go on, I’ll wait for you! Exercise is a fascinating word. It can be both a noun AND a verb; meaning it can be both a thing and an action–unlike the word, athlete. Also, unlike the word, athlete, exercise has numerous definitions, such as
- the act of bringing into play or realizing into action (n)
- regular or repeated use of a faculty or bodily organ (n)
- to make effective into action (v)
- to use repeatedly in order to strengthen or develop (v)
And, the really cool thing is that these were only the first two definitions for the noun and verb form of exercise. There are several more ways, in fact, to define exercise. However, the definitions I share here are enough to make the point. Exercise is nothing more than bringing something–a movement, for example–into action by repeatedly doing it. Isn’t that excitingly simple?
“Healthy is an outfit that looks different on everybody!”–Unknown
Exercising is for ALL. Not once, when reading through the complete list of definitions for exercise did I come across the word athlete or athletic. Nor did I read anything about requirements for age, body type, body size, gender, height, coordination, prior experience, prior injuries/illnesses, prior knowledge, time commitments, cost, or even special clothes/shoes. In other words, none of those narrow boxes that we use to define ourselves or excuse ourselves can prevent us from exercise!
I used to say, and still sometimes default to this phrase, “I’m not a real ___________ .” (Fill in the blank with whatever current form of exercise I happen to practice). It needs to stop. I say this to myself as much as I write it to you. If we are moving, then we are doing real exercise.
Additionally, there is no one, so-called, “right” way to exercise. Move. Walk. Swing your arms. Dance. Bounce your leg. Swing your hair (Doesn’t work for me, but if you have it, swing it!) Put on some K.C. and the Sunshine Band and, “Shake, shake your booty!” Move from one end of your home to another. Wave at your neighbor–do it five to ten times, and you’re strengthening the muscles involved in that movement. The point is, get up, and move.
Start small, and commit to five minutes of walking or some other form of movement–preferably not sitting, assuming you have no mobility issues. Sometimes, just committing to a small time, leads to a longer time of effort. Even if it doesn’t, that is still five minutes in which you weren’t sitting still. Then, building upon that success, might just be enough to get the ball rolling, or should I say, body moving.
Mood follows action. You heard it here first. Actually, I cannot take credit for that assertion, but it is a statement that has proven true for me repeatedly. In fact, I embrace that declaration like a mantra. Take a positive action, however small it is, and it elevates your mood, often leading you to either make more of a time commitment to said activity or make another positive choice. Either way, it’s a win-win.
Exercise has so many positive benefits. Here are just a few of the research backed benefits in case you need extra motivation:
- Reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Releases tension and reduces stress levels
- Boosts self esteem
- Increases memory and sharper thinking
- Improves sleep quality
- Protects against many chronic disease
- Lowers blood pressure and improves heart health
Typing that list made me feel a little giddy. Seriously, stop letting your definition of how an athlete, or so-called exerciser, should look, should dress, should do, or should be–those are all beliefs embedded in your mind that are holding you back. You have a body. You can move it.
Don’t worry about what other people will think of you, because if they are passing judgment on you, that says more about them than it does you!! You take care of yourself, and get moving. It is not about losing weight, embodying a certain body type, or even wearing the latest greatest name in shoes, fitness watches/gadgets, and/or athletic wear. It’s about Y-O-U and your health!
If you’re not sure where to start, walking is the easiest and most accessible form of exercise. It doesn’t require any special equipment and can be completed even inside a home/store/work site. My grandfather used to walk around his house for a certain amount of time–well before there were step trackers. Some people walk inside malls, stores, or shopping centers. I’ve even been known to walk up and down my driveway just to move!
Additionally, there are plenty of plans, tutorials, and how-to videos on-line–just make sure you use reputable sites, such as Healthline, Verywell Fit, Exercise Prescription on Internet (ExRx), Livestrong, Bodybuilding.com, The Cooper Institute, and MyFitnessPal to name a few. Look for beginning tips/routines/plans to get you started. Bear in mind, these are suggestions, not laws. The key is to explore, experiment, and find what works best for you.
Come on, no more excuses. Move your body; bring it into play/action–even a little bit counts. Repeat it again tomorrow. Start small, add more when you can. Mood–and health–follows action. You’ve got this! (Feel free to reach out and let me know how it goes! I love seeing others find their own movement/exercise journey!)