Beyond Body Positivity: What is Joyful Movement?

The word exercise brings up a lot of feelings.

Do any of these thoughts sound familiar to you?
"What's the point in exercising if the goal isn't to burn calories?" 
"I'll never be athletic."
"It doesn't count if it's not for at least 30 minutes."
"I feel so guilty when I skip a workout."
"I'm embarrassed to exercise in front of other people."
"I ate dessert today, so I have to work it off tomorrow."
We all have different views on exercising. Some have painful memories of being made fun of in gym class. Others spend hours at the gym hoping that it will get them the body they've always wanted. Whatever your feelings are toward working up a sweat, it is hard to separate exercising from the desire to change your body.
There is another option - joyful movement. Joyful movement means moving your body in a way that is enjoyable for you. Some days you may want to get your heart pumping, while other days you might want to take a more leisurely approach. Other days you may decide to rest, and that's ok too! There are no rules. It's all about what is best for you in that moment.
Everyone, regardless of body size, ability level, age, race or gender, deserves the opportunity to move if they choose. 

7 tips for starting a joyful movement practice

    1. Try activities that are fun. At the very least, pick something that you don't dread doing. Exercising does not need to feel like punishment. You don't have to go for a run if you hate it just because you want to lose weight. You don't have to lift weights if you hate it just because you want to gain muscle. It also means that you should absolutely run and lift weights if it makes you feel great! One of my go-to activities is hula hooping - it's not only for kids!
    2. Focus on improving health markers, not manipulating your body size. Movement is beneficial for so many reasons aside from changing your body. It helps lower your blood pressure, opens a new window and blood sugar levels, opens a new window. It reduces stress, opens a new window, improves digestion, opens a new window, and helps you sleep, opens a new window. You never have to "work off" food that you have eaten, no matter what our diet-obsessed culture tells you.
    3. Do it with a buddy. My favorite aspect of movement is sharing it with my loved ones. Now that it's summer, it's easier to be outside with friends or family in a safe way. I love dancing to Baby Shark with my nieces and nephews and taking walks with friends by the Charles River.
    4. Set realistic goals that are not attached to calories or body size. Use metrics that are attainable for you, like minutes exercised or increasing the intensity. For example, your initial goal might be to walk for 10 minutes on your lunch break, but your final goal is to get up to 30 minutes. Gradually increase the number of minutes you walk over time until you reach your goal. Listen to your body and take days off. Don't beat yourself up if it takes longer than you'd like. You are not in competition with yourself or anyone else!
    5. Movement comes in all forms. You don't need to have dedicated set-aside time for exercising  to get the benefits of movement. Do you like gardening? That's movement! Do you take your dog for walks? That's movement too. It can simply be a part of your daily life. All movement is valid. It doesn't matter how intense it is or how long you do it for.
    6. Read real-life inspirational stories by those in the inclusive fitness world. Many people have overcome discrimination and fitness industry bias. BPL has books by fitness experts and regular folks who discovered joyful movement. Their stories can give you confidence and new ideas for activities you might like to try.

Check out this book list for inspiration!

Joyful Movement is for Everyone

List created by swmahon

Moving your body doesn't have to be a chore! Joyful movement is about doing what makes your body feel good, not how many calories you burn. Check out the titles below for inspiration to get moving in a way that works for you.

View Full List

Looking for support on your joyful movement journey? Check out these podcasts:

Big Fit Girl with Louise Green, opens a new window

Decolonizing Fitness with Ilya Parker, opens a new window

Disabled Girls Who Lift, opens a new window

Hearing Our Own Voice Podcast with Melissa Toler, opens a new window

Train Happy Podcast with Tally Rye, opens a new window

Note: please consult your doctor before starting a movement practice.