Intuitive Exercise: An Alternative Approach to Movement

While the benefits of exercise are noteworthy, for some, our relationship with exercise can have a toll on our wellbeing and daily functioning. Often, we receive and internalize all-or-nothing messages about exercise. This includes messages that we need to burn X number of calories, exercise for a certain length of time and intensity or become a sweaty mess in order for exercise to “count”. For example, if you are finding your inner dialog saying that you have to exercise for at least X minutes, this may be a sign that your inner voice, instead of your intuitive sense, is deciding on what exercise looks like for you.

Regardless of whether you have been struggling with compulsive exercise, excessive exercise or would like to incorporate physical activity into your life, intuitive exercise may be a good fit for you. Intuitive exercise is free from external rules, as well any rules that may come from your inner dialogue.

Living intuitively involves noticing, listening and understanding your mind, heart, and body. Each individual has their own needs, which are best met when they are living by their own intuitive sense (Hieber & Berret, 2003). Exercising intuitively is no different – it is a way of reconnecting with and respecting our bodies.

Hieber and Berrett (2003) provide the following guidelines in becoming an intuitive exerciser:

  • Respond to self-understanding and approach exercise accordingly.
  • Respect your internal messages and inner needs.
  • Respect and respond to your body, especially in times where your body is fatigued or in pain. This includes the choice of what type of exercise, the duration of exercise and intensity on any given day.
  • Examine your motives for exercise and adjust your exercise as needed.
  • Find physical activities and exercise that you enjoy.
  • When thinking about exercise, remove concepts of calories, size and fat.
  • Ensure that your body is receiving adequate nourishment and fuel.
  • Schedule the time you need to take care of yourself.

So, in light of this, instead of picking what you feel that you should do, ask yourself – What feels good for me in this moment? What does my body need? What type of movement, if any, do I feel like going? In asking these questions and by listening to your inner voice, you are tuning into your body and honoring what your body needs. You have the right to trust your body.

Daily reminder: Your body and whether you exercise or not does not define your value as a person or your moral worth.

Hieber, N. & Berrett, M. (2003). Intuitive Exercise. Center for Change: Hope & Healing

E-Newsletter, 8(3), pp. 7-10.

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