Movement Unique to You

One of the areas of self care and health-promoting behaviors is exercise. Exercise in many ways supports the human body both physically and mentally. Our bodies were meant to move, yet our relationship with exercise can become intertwined with unhealthy disordered eating behaviors and interfere with the overall benefits. We don’t get told this enough: there can be levels of too much exercise, just like there can be a lack thereof; and there can be levels of health-promoting exercise, but also situations where this may push our body to limits far beyond what it actually needs and can perform, in turn risking our health. So the question is, how does one start moving, or check in with their routine, and assess if it’s supporting their overall health and wellbeing? 

Consider joyful movement, not just exercise

If you were to Google the definition of exercise, per oxford languages it’s an activity requiring “physical effort” and is “carried out to sustain health and wellness” or a “specific process”. Some synonyms for exercise are physical activity, movement, train, keep fit and work out. The physical benefits of exercise are increased strength and stamina, and stability; improves muscle, joint, and bone health; reduces the risk of developing or improves metabolic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, strokes, dyslipidemia, and high blood pressure; reduces swelling, increases cognition and concentration, enhances mood and can act as a stress reliever, and more. The recommended minimum exercise for adults to obtain these health benefits, per the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity per week with the inclusion of two strength training days. These recommendations vary for older adults, adults with disabilities, children, and other specific populations that may require modifications or more activity. 

What I want to bring emphasis to is these guidelines note that exercise can be either structured routines or house chores like cleaning or yard work. This is why when I educate individuals on exercise and health, I recommend thinking of exercise as joyful movement, a term identified in the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating. Joyful movement encourages exercising for all its health benefits while recognizing the importance of finding forms that feel good to our bodies, build confidence in continuing the routine, and aren’t steeped in a poor relationship with food. If someone were to force themselves to the gym and choose an exercise machine to slog through some distance and only do it for the calorie burn, this likely won’t be enjoyable and keep the individual going back for more, and increase the chance of not creating a movement habit. Instead, searching for forms of movement that feel good, make us smile and feel energized after, maybe bring out the kid in us, and create a social gathering or allow some needed alone time, this increases the motivation for continuing a routine and getting long term benefits from the movement. Some examples of joyful movement, plus meet the recommended exercise frequency and intensity for adults, are:

  • Running and jogging, whether on a trail, neighborhood, or treadmill, with the importance of this should be at our own pace

  • Walking, such as nature walks, in a neighborhood, or local park

  • Hiking and rock climbing

  • Cycling or causal biking

  • Yoga

  • Pilates

  • High intensity interval training, like Barre, Cross Fit, or Orange Theory routines

  • Yardwork, such as landscaping, gardening, and mowing the lawn with a push mower

  • House chores, including cleaning, cooking, or moving furniture

  • Winter sports like snow shoeing, alpine skiing or snowboarding, cross country skiing, ice skating, and shoveling snow

  • Summer sports such as wading and diving in a pool, lake swimming, water skiing, surfing or all kinds, or hunting for seashells along the beach

  • Walking the dog or taking our kids to the park

  • High-activity jobs, such as nursing (especially in a hospital setting), construction work, lifeguarding, day camp counselor, babysitting whether kids or animals or both, coaching, or fitness trainer

  • Recreational sports

Measuring light, moderate, and vigorous exercise forms, with the importance of individuality

The variation in exercise intensity levels have some objectiveness, but also are subjective where everyone’s body and fitness level is different. That’s why it’s important to start where you need to and begin with what feels good to your body to reduce the risk of injury and increase the likelihood of sustainability. It may be beneficial to talk with your healthcare team first (i.e. primary care physician, medical specialist like cardiologist or surgeon, therapist or psychiatrist, and dietitian), and seek a certified personal trainer (CPT), certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), or physical therapist (DPT) if you are embarking on a new exercise journey. 

Some objective measures for the levels of intensity include the metabolic equivalent of tasks (METs), with 1 MET being the energy expenditure while sitting at rest; heart rate reserve (HRR), the difference between an at-rest heart rate and max-exertion heart rate; heart rate max (HRmax), and rating of perceived exertion (RPE). Below are defined methods by the World Health Organization (WHO), United States Government, and Canadian Government. These organizations remind us that while these objective points are useful to prescribing movement, it’s essential to consider the individual’s needs above all, where one form of moderate movement may be vigorous for another (and vice-versa).

  • Light, or gentle- can still have a conversation while performing the movement, slightly increase the heart rate 

  • Moderate- 3 to less than 6 METs, walking 2.5 -4mph, RPE = 5-6, HRR 40-59%, and HRmax 64-76%

  • Vigorous- greater than 6 METs, fast walking of greater than 4mph, 7-8 RPE, 60-84% HRR, and 77-93% HRmax 

What we often don’t consider as movement

Remember that movement does not have to be structured and planned. Movement could be spur of the moment going to an amusement park, walking the mall, yardwork, babysitting young kids, walking to get to and from class or transportation, and any of the activities listed above. Movement can be 10 minutes, or it can be hours, but all count towards our total needs and promote overall health and wellbeing. So when counting our movement for the week, don’t forget to include activities of daily living that still work our muscles and get our heart rate up.

Are you considering integrating a fitness routine that fits within your lifestyle? We at Enhance Nutrition can get you started with exploring joyful movement, with the idea of it being health promoting, enjoyable, and sustainable all in one. Reach out to us today!

Resources:; Table 1