Intuitive Movement

I love exercise, it makes me feel alive, takes my level of happiness up a notch and has an instant effect on telling my anxiety to ‘do one’. Sadly, not everyone shares my passion for moving and raising the heart rate, especially women. A report conducted by Nuffield Health Healthier Nation Index 2021 looked at participation in exercise in adults. One statistic that stood out to me was that 40% of women who participated in the survey listed ‘embarrassment’ as the main reason for not exercising. It is disheartening to think not everyone can reap the benefits of moving their bodies in whatever way they feel comfortable to naturally increase energy levels, feel happier and manage poor mental health. How can we fix this? Free elevated levels of happiness and better mental health? Who wouldn’t want that? 

Although going for a walk, run or swim helps to improve my mental wellbeing, of course I appreciate this isn’t everyone’s go to when trying to de-stress. There are multiple ways to achieve these three points (increase energy, feel happier and support mental health) such as playing music, watching a film, or speaking to friends. But we cannot escape the whole host of other benefits exercise can have on you and lower risks of lifestyle related diseases. The NHS guidelines are 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week, (NHS, 2020). For many this might feel too prescriptive, unachievable, or even difficult to picture what that looks like in practice. 

Intuitive movement is a fast-growing concept which is becoming a trendy way to view exercise and keep healthy. But is there truth behind this way of thinking? Can it overall improve our physical and mental health? 

So, what does this concept mean? Let us break it down, the Cambridge dictionary says to be intuitive is the ability to know or understand something because of feelings and not facts. Movement is ‘an act of moving’, so when we put it together, we can know or understand what is right for us to do movement wise based on feelings and not fact. This therefore gives us the new permission to exercise or move our bodies in a way that feels right for that day and that is enough. 

Revolutionary, isn’t it? Especially for those who have spent years saying that a workout is only classed as a workout if you wore your smart watch and logged the calories burnt. Although a simple concept, changing our mindset around how we exercise and why can be complex, especially with years of being influenced by diet culture and even reduced opportunities to be active for certain groups. 

Asking ourselves why we exercise and looking at our motivations around it can be useful. Typically, we can categorize our motivations into either being intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivations are often linked to internal reasons such as finding exercise fun whereas extrinsic might be to lose weight. Identifying your ‘why’ can help to start the process of moving towards moving your body each day in a way that links in with how you feel and therefore more intuitive. 

Have a think about your why and then give this a go… 

Each day when you wake up really dig deep to assess how are you feeling today and what do you need to do to serve your mind, body, and soul? 

Checklist: 

  • How did I sleep last night? 
  • How are my stress levels? 
  • Am I well hydrated? 
  • Have I fueled my body correctly? 
  • How is my overall energy? 

With this checklist, you can start to assess what sort of activity would fit your day, your needs and how you feel. It could be that you have had a bad night’s sleep and feel lethargic so a light walk and a stretch is best. Other days you may feel full of energy and want to burn off some steam so a run or weight session might be a better fit. Being more in tune with what you and your body needs each day will help you to overall achieve that 150-minute recommendation more realistically over a longer period. 

For some this might be an easy transition but for others it could be challenging. We all have a relationship with exercise, some positive and some negative. It can be complex, so it is important to remember that if you find it harder to move to this way of thinking then reaching out for support can help. 

Whatever you like to call it, exercise, movement or being active, do whatever makes you feel good and remember there are many benefits of having an active lifestyle and not for just aesthetic reasons. 

References:

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/

https://happiful.com/intuitive-movement/

https://www.nuffieldhealth.com/healthiernation

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