19 top tips to help you learn to enjoy moving your body

Image credit: Representation Matters

Do you hate exercising? Learning to move your body in a regular, mindful and enjoyable way is fundamental to our physical and mental health. At BodyMatters we encourage this movement within a health (rather than weight) centred paradigm. We have asked some our favourite PTs to share their top tips.

Miss Eleni Psillakis from Brazengrowth

  • Try something different! Try an activity that you have always wanted to but have not tried because of previous rigid rules around exercise. This could be resistance training, pole dancing or even surfing! Getting into the ocean does wonders for anxiety and improving your mood!
  • Say to yourself that you are allowed and are worthy of rest days!! Resting is actually beneficial in terms of performance, minimising injuries, improving the immune system, stabilising hormone levels and decreasing anxiety – all which improve metabolic processes. This is looking after your HEALTH!
  • Enjoy and expand on your other talents that you may have let slip! When we have engaged in unhealthy levels of exercise and our motivation to exercise is guilt, fear or shame based, we may have often engaged in exercise compulsively at the expense of other activities. It could be writing, artwork, playing music, reading! Learn to enjoy doing these things and love yourself for being so talented!

Alanah Dobinson from the Centre for Integrative Health

  • Begin your journey by debunking the reasons you have avoided or disliked exercise to this point. Dig deep with your clinician until you get to the hurtful core of it all, and work on these barriers. These could range from physical, to emotional, and social barriers.
  • Be okay with non-judgmentally trying new (or old) exercises again. Recovering from a hesitant relationship with exercise takes much-needed healing time.
  • Make it social. Meet with friends before you begin moving, drive/walk with them to your movement session, have a great time exercising with them, and debrief with a coffee catchup at the end.

Lu-Lu Thompson from Mind Body Mojo

  • Reset your mindset. We are surrounded by messages that fitness equals abs and it is very easy to start a fitness routine with an aesthetic goal. But exercise gives you many other benefits like reduced stress, reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, reduced likelihood of injury, increased heart and bone health. If you have only ever thought of exercise as a way to burn the calories or keep yourself, small start on working on shifting those thoughts to include all the health benefits.
  • Find a trainer, group or gym that is inclusive and supportive of everyone having access to exercise and health. You may have to look hard but being part of a group who have similar goals, to feel healthy without focusing on diets or restriction will give you the motivation to start and to keep going.
  • Learn to love your body for all the awesome things it can do! I highly recommend strength training as a way to see just how strong you can be, to feel empowered and to learn to love everything your body is capable. You may also fall in love with dancing, netball, soccer, running, bushwalking; the options are endless if you start experimenting.
  • Don’t do exercise because you feel like you have to. If you’re going for a run because you feel like you have to burn off what you ate you will end up hating exercise and food and the vicious cycle will never end. Instead seek out activities that you do enjoy and do more of them. Remember the things you did as a child that you enjoyed, or think about taking up a new hobby.
  • Be kind and compassionate to yourself. If you have had a chequered past with exercise it takes time to heal these wounds. Recognize where some of these thoughts may have come from in the past and notice when and where they come up for you again. Seek professional support or someone you can talk these feelings through with give yourself space for writing and processing. Understand that by letting go of some of these old thoughts you can make space for freedom both in movement and in your mind.

Sarah King from SK Active

  • Make it social. Isolation is common for many people struggling with their mental health, so finding ways to build back relationships while focusing on physical activity can be really helpful. Having a chat as you go for a walk or catching up with a friend for coffee after your gym class makes it a much more enjoyable activity than doing it on your own.
  • Think of exercise as moving meditation. Exercise can be a break from whatever stresses you’re facing in the day, but you don’t need to push yourself to the max in order to boost your mood. Reframe exercise as an activity that helps clear your mind.
  • Get off the gram. Social media can be a real trap for creating a positive relationship with exercise. Research shows that most of us feel worse about ourselves when we see these images, and further critique our own habits or body. Unfollowing these accounts can be incredibly beneficial to creating a better relationship with ourselves and sustainable exercise. Understand that there is nothing wrong with your body, it’s perfect just as it is, and focus on movement that boosts your mental and physical health.
  • Try something new. Your body loves variety! Mixing up your workouts is also a great way to prevent you from getting stuck in a repetitive routine. Think outside the box a little and organise to play a social game of sport with friends, try stand up paddle boarding or surfing in summer, and see if hot yoga is your thing when the temperature drops. Remember exercise doesn’t always have to be intense to be effective, and there are plenty of ways to stay fit that don’t require a gym!
  • Have a sounding board. Sometimes the hardest part about re-introducing exercise is figuring out which thoughts and activities are healthy and those which are still disordered. Do you really need 10,000 steps each day to be healthy? Does exercise have to be high intensity to be effective? Having a sounding board such as an exercise physiologist, psychologist or GP who you can talk through these concerns with will help you move forward with re-building a healthy relationship with exercise.

Anna Hearn from Haven Women’s Fitness & Yoga Studio

  • Separate exercise from weight. Our society links weight so closely with exercise, but I’ve learnt that it has less effect on weight than the diet industry leads us to believe. Exercise has a multitude of benefits far above and beyond simply changing aesthetics. Start to think of exercise in its own right – it can have a place in your life as a self-care, enjoyable and health-promoting practice. What is important to you – feeling energetic, having balanced moods, fun, mental resilience, a strong heart, confidence, cognitive clarity, strong bones and muscles, mobility or freedom to participate fully in life? Embrace movement for the reasons that are important to you that have zero to do with appearance.
  • Take an intuitive, curious approach to movement and let go of rules. You may be so used to associating exercise with “have to’s” and “should’s” that you’ve lost connection with what feels good in your body. Now that exercise is no longer connected to weight, you’re free to explore what is accessible, enjoyable and fun for you, without pressure. Invite a sense of curiosity as you explore new ways to move your body. You could make a list of things that spike your interest and try one new activity a week. For me, yoga is grounding and meditative, and I love silent bushwalking for recharging me and helping manage my anxiety. For others it can be the comradery of team sports, jumping in the ocean or jumping on a bike. Be willing to try new things and seek movement that is driven by enjoyment and self-care rather than any effect you think it may have on the body externally.
  • Find your people / person / place! Seek out HAES aligned or body positive environments or trainers to work with where you can be confident it’s a safe non-triggering space, there’s an understanding of the HAES approach and you’ll be guided towards movement that feels good in your body. Reach out to your online community for recommendations – the HAES and body positive fitness community is small but growing! If you don’t have access to any, consider approaching any fitness centres or trainers you may wish to work with let them know that you wish to keep the focus on healthful behaviours rather than weight-centric dialogue and exercise. If you’re comfortable with them you may be comfortable sharing why this is so important for you. You may even find that sharing this message encourages others to embrace the HAES approach too, or at least plants a seed!

In closing, many thanks to these amazing PTs who have generously shared their ideas. Connecting in with any of them would also be another helpful opportunity to improve your relationship with movement. We would love to find what you have found helpful in improving your relationship with moving your body!


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