Tips for Enjoying Exercise

Do you force yourself to workout, just to hate every minute of it? Here are my tips as a non-diet dietitian, for enjoying exercise and to incorporate movement intuitively into your day. Thanks to diet culture, we often associate exercise with weight loss and wanting to change our bodies. Focusing only on changing our bodies…

girl enjoying exercise in mountains

Do you force yourself to workout, just to hate every minute of it? Here are my tips as a non-diet dietitian, for enjoying exercise and to incorporate movement intuitively into your day.

girl enjoying exercise in mountains

Thanks to diet culture, we often associate exercise with weight loss and wanting to change our bodies. Focusing only on changing our bodies through exercise can lead to frustration, exhaustion and in the end, wanting to give up. The same goes for nutrition.

But exercise is so much more than that. When we take the focus away from changing our physical appearance and instead, focus on the physical and mental health benefits of exercise, it can change the way we see movement.

So today, I’m sharing some tips to help you enjoy exercise.

Movement VS Exercise

You’ll notice that I often use the word movement instead of exercise. This is a simple way to change your mindset. While exercise can be associated with negative memories of dieting and wanting to change your body, movement can be something more enjoyable. It’s a simple change that can help if you have a long history of dieting and exercising to change your body. You’ll also notice that many forms of movements aren’t always considered as exercise to many, but everything counts! More on that later.

The All or Nothing Mentality

Do you go from exercising daily to doing no exercise at all? Do you tell yourself that you’ve missed one workout this week, so you might as well give up and try again next week? Would you only count a workout as worth it if you sweat for an hour?

You may have the “all or nothing” mentality when it comes to exercise.

This is a common way of thinking. Diet culture makes us believe that we need to exercise daily and eat a “perfect” diet to be truly healthy. That anything less than perfect is not worth it. This is not true.

Finding an enjoyable way to move and that fits into your lifestyle is what will have the biggest impact on your physical and mental health. The same goes for finding a balance in your diet, where you can enjoy eating nutritious foods because they make you feel your best, while still enjoying some less nutritious foods without guilt.

Girl walking in empty street

Finding Joy in Movement and Exercise

Here are my tips as a non-diet dietitian, to help you enjoy exercise and movement.

Forget About Calories

I encourage you to stop looking at exercise as a way to burn calories. Using exercise as a way to burn off what you ate can negatively affect your relationship with exercise (and food). Taking the focus away from your appearance can help you find joy in movement and make it more sustainable long term (as opposed to just another temporary part of a weight loss attempt).

Change Your Mindset

Instead of focusing on the calories, try using exercise as a form of self-care. We can’t deny that movement can benefit our physical and mental wellbeing. So try focusing on that instead. When you move to take care of yourself and to make you feel your best (while still being gentle on yourself), it changes your relationship with exercise and makes it more sustainable long term.

Avoid the All or Nothing Mentality

You don’t need to sweat for an hour daily for it to count as exercise. It’s completely okay to enjoy a longer, more intense workouts some days, then lighter exercises on other days. It’s also okay to rest, which brings us to the next point.

Allow Yourself to Rest

Sometimes resting is more important than exercising. If you didn’t sleep well, feel ill or tired, then take the time to rest. Exercising in those instances can increase stress. This is especially true if you’re injured!

Find Exercises That You Truly Enjoy

I encourage you to try different things until you find a movement that you enjoy. This may change throughout your life, so don’t be afraid to change it up! If you don’t enjoy running or weight lifting, then try something else!

Was there an activity that you enjoyed as a kid? This may be a clue as to which types of movements you’d enjoy.

Is there a type of movement that you enjoy, but wouldn’t count as exercise? A movement that you do for pleasure, but isn’t part of your daily gym workout? Find a way to do it more often!

Don’t Force It

An exercise routine may work for some, but it may be too rigid for others. Instead of being strict on what time and day you exercise, try being flexible. At the beginning of every day or week, ask yourself what type of movement you feel like doing. Change it up or rest as needed. Do what works for you.

Everything Counts

Even 15 minutes of exercise can benefit your health. So instead of forcing yourself to workout for an hour, try moving for smaller chunks of time. Maybe the thought of exercising for 20 minutes instead of 1 hour is enough to get you to move. I don’t know about you, but the thought of running for 1 hour is enough to discouraging me. Instead, a 15-20 minute run is much more encouraging and enjoyable to me.

You can also engage in some lighter exercises that you may enjoy, such as yoga, walking or stretching. It doesn’t have to be a long sweaty workout to count.

A few other considerations: Try working out with friends or exercising outside to make it enjoyable!

And that’s it! I would love to hear what you think. Are there exercises that you truly enjoy?

This information is intended for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace individualized nutrition, exercise or medical advice. Note that this post is my personal opinion as a non-diet dietitian.

Looking for more non-diet content? Check out my post on diet culture words to avoid.

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4 responses to “Tips for Enjoying Exercise”

  1. Catherine Avatar

    I completely agree! I love running, and for me it is something that I genuinely enjoy doing and look forward to. I also love having a training plan to follow, it keeps things exciting and it keeps me motivated to challenge myself and achieve my time goals for upcoming races

    1. Nourished by Caroline Avatar

      I’m so happy you found what worked for you! Having a training plan can certainly work for some. 🙂

  2. Veronica Avatar

    Hi Caroline,

    Love what you wrote! I have been thinking about this myself recently. I am sorry to say that I am just the person you described, especially when I am stressed; it is all or nothing. It is like my brain goes into semi stress mode which leads me to eat more than I normally do followed by dieting. Then I get so sick and tired of the calorie counting and rigid eating, and my normally enjoyable walks are no fun since I have to do a lot of it every day to be able to eat. *sigh* It is so weird, I eat mostly natural, healthy food anyway; lot of veggies, hardly any white flour or sugar, bake with gluten-free flours like oat flour, teff, sorghum, berries, fruits.. it is just that I don’t listen to my bode and eat more than normal when I am stressed. (and I notice a change in my body as I am getting older, 50 y o, which stresses the part of me that worries I will get a big belly..)

    Your article reminded me that the best way for me is to do short chunks of exercise like I used to to. That way I feel happy I have done something, it is enjoyable and doesn’t feel like such an obstacle, and do what I enjoy; walking. And I have taken up yoga, 30 min 3-4 times a week. Not much but still. (Sometimes running but I have to admit, not a big fan of running. 😀 )

    Sorry about the long essay, just wanted to say that your article had a positive impact on me! 🙂 Now I am off to have brekkie, followed by a 20-30 min walk and my yoga. And I am going to feel it is enough and that I have done good!! 😀

    Have a wonderful rest of the week!

    1. Nourished by Caroline Avatar

      Hi Veronica,

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m so happy this post has been helpful! That made my day. Eating and moving intuitively is a journey and it doesn’t happen overnight. We all have to break free of old habits and work on ourselves. Having the support from a registered dietitian and a therapist with a HAES (health at every size) approach can be very helpful for anyone. I hope you’ll find what works for you. Have a good weekend! 🙂

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