One of the best ways I’ve found to feel vital, energized and happy as I’ve aged is to stick to a regular exercise routine.
Our bodies love to move. Any kind of regular movement keeps us from getting stagnant, worn out, stiff, tired and stuck.
As we age, one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves is to make sure we’re exercising in ways that energize us and make us feel good.
It’s easy to recognize this if exercise is already part of your life. But what if you don’t already have regular exercise habits?
It can be difficult to create new habits at all—and it’s even harder when society gives us all kinds of messages that we are “supposed” to workout in order to fit a particular beauty standard.
Exercise for you, not because society says you “should.”
The media tells us we should exercise to fit some kind of unrealistic, externally imposed beauty ideal. These negative messages make it more difficult to connect to the positive aspects of exercising that just feel good in our bodies.
So if you don’t already have a regular exercise habit, how can you get started?
How can you distinguish between the unrealistic expectations handed down from advertisers that we’re “supposed” to exercise to look a certain way—versus developing new habits to increase your own vitality and pleasure?
I was never an athlete of any kind when I was younger, and I used to hate the gym. So I developed my own exercise routine after not working out for many years. Now I love it. When life gets too busy and I get out of my routine, I can’t wait to get back to exercising. Not because I should—but because I want to.
Here are some things I’ve found that have really helped me embrace and enjoy exercising in a way that’s right for me.
Experiment until you find movement you love.
I hate to run. Like, hate it. I have ever since I was a kid.
I can never figure out how to sync up my breathing so I don’t get out of breath. I also don’t like how jarring it is.
So instead of running, I tried different things until I found a way to work out that really felt good.
Turns out I love the elliptical machine. It’s smooth, no-impact. I like the way it balances out my upper and lower body—and I can read a magazine while I do it. (That’s me. For you, it might be something completely different!)
Then I remembered that I’ve always loved dancing—so much that I never even thought of it as “exercise.”
Then I discovered spin class. Even though I never really liked biking before, the fact that spin class plays great music and has you bike to the beat makes it a different experience.
Also, Vinyasa yoga feels great to my body, especially when I’m tense and need a stretch as well as a good sweat.
Now I have four ways to work out that are actually fun for me and feel really good.
Developing a workout habit isn’t about forcing yourself to do something that you don’t like because you “should.” It’s about experimenting until you find something that feels so good that you want to do it.
Break a sweat.
Any movement is better than no movement. But if you can move vigorously enough to work up a sweat, you’ll likely find yourself wanting to move a lot more.
That’s because when you exercise vigorously enough to sweat, your body also releases endorphins—the feel-good chemicals that elevate your mood, release tension, and give you what people call a “runner’s high.”
If you can get your heart rate and body temperature up enough to sweat, you’ll find that your workout elevates your mood.
Focus on how you feel, not how you look.
We contend with so many unrealistic beauty and body image expectations throughout our lives, and we receive so many messages that working out is about being thin or having a certain shape.
Naturally, we might want to rebel against those messages, because they’re externally imposed, judgmental, and don’t bring us pleasure.
When I reframed exercise as how I feel rather than how I look, everything changed.
I started wanting to work out because my body feels good when I’m doing it. It’s a great way to release stress and tension, and my mood is about ten times better after I do it.
My job is to keep my body healthy and feeling good—and how that makes me look is just a side effect.
How have you incorporated exercise into your life in a way that feels pleasurable—or what challenges are you facing as you learn to do so? Let us know in the comments below!