Movement is an important aspect of our daily lives and is the 9th principle of intuitive eating. The philosophy and mindset behind intuitive eating is very congruent to the mindset behind intuitive movement/intuitive exercise. This philosophy is centered around the idea of listening to your body’s cues to determine what type of movement or exercise would make your body feel good at that moment. Unfortunately in a weight-focused and appearance-driven society, exercise and movement has become more of a chore. In fact, exercise has become more of “have to” or a “should do” rather than something to actually enjoy. All of us know that movement in general is good for our health, however society has programmed exercise to be something to dread or something we need to force ourselves to do. Practicing intuitive movement is all about beginning to nurture a more positive and healthy relationship with your body. So what does it look like to move intuitively? Read below to find out more!
What is Intuitive Exercise/Movement?
As mentioned previously, intuitive movement is the practice of connecting with your body’s internal cues to find out what type of movement you need that day. Instead of picking the highest intensity or longest duration possible, you allow your body to first figure out what it needs. Intuitive movement also means that you are allowing yourself to move as a form of self-care instead of for weight loss.
Some questions to ask yourself as you start on this journey of intuitive movement include: “What does my body need today?”, “What movement sounds good to me right now?” When you ask yourself these questions, you may find that an intense cardio workout sounds good but on some days you may find that a short walk or yoga sounds sufficient. Intuitive movement is all about flexibility instead of rigidity. It is based on allowing yourself to choose what you want the day of instead of forcing yourself to do X days of cardio and X days of weight training. By allowing this flexibility, you are also allowing yourself to shift from a “have to” mindset to a “want to” mindset. This helps you to begin viewing movement as something to look forward to, rather than dread.
Health Benefits of Intuitive Movement
The benefits of movement and exercise are well-known. But unfortunately, many people are told that the main purpose of exercise is simply to burn calories, lose weight, and compensate for their food. When the results are not what people expect, they lose motivation and may end up stopping exercise completely. Even if you are sticking with a rigid routine, if it is coming from a place of low self-esteem or self-hatred then it is not healthy. Intuitive movement, on the other hand, focuses on beginning to shift your focus away from self-hatred to self-love. Below are some benefits of intuitive eating on one’s health.
Lower levels of stress and anxiety
5 Tips to begin practicing intuitive movement
1. Do a body scan
A body scan is an incredible way of tuning into your own physical and emotional state. It is super quick and can even be completed in bed when you wake up or start moving about your day. Starting at the very top of your head, focus on each of your body parts and how they’re feeling. Slowly work your way down your body to your neck, shoulders, arms, chest, back, etc. By doing this you may find that your body is feeling tight in some places, stressed, or even loose or energized. This is one of the reasons why Intuitive movement results in overall decreased risk of injury. By becoming more intrinsically connected to your body, you are able to spot and notice signs of overtraining more effectively. This practice also encourages variation of movement and exercise, preventing an overloading on certain muscles and joints. Noticing and recognizing the need for rest, also allows your body time to properly heal and restore when necessary.
2. Choose a form of movement you enjoy
Movement does not have to look like one form of exercise and one type of exercise only! In fact, if you are finding that you are dreading a type of exercise, maybe it’s time to look for other types of movement. Movement is a CELEBRATION of your body and what it can do for you. Remember that even small bursts of movement are still movement. This includes things like dancing around your living room, doing a fun active activity with your kids, or even taking your dogs for a walk around the block. Look into different classes and be curious about other forms of movement and try to find forms of movement that make you happy and bring you joy.
3. Pay attention to how movement makes you feel
Throughout exercise or even after, take a second to ask yourself some questions. “How does my body feel now?” “Do I feel more energized?” “Do I feel stronger or am I in pain?” Begin bringing intention around these thoughts and feelings to better address what needs you may have. If you find that after movement you feel incredibly tired and drained, you may be in need of a rest day.
4. Don’t be afraid of rest days!
Say it with me. Rest. Days. Are. Important. They are just as important as active days. Not only do these days help you to recover and heal but they also allow you to build respect with your body and its needs. By building that awareness and trust in your body, you are then more readily able to recognize what it needs day to day.
5. Notice your “why”
Pay attention to that little voice that pops in your head when you think of exercise and movement. Why are you exercising? Are you exercising because you feel like you have to or because you want to lose weight? Notice when these thoughts pop into your head, recognize them, and redirect! Start thinking of and finding a reason to move your body separate from calories or weight loss. Practice reframing exercise as something you do to take care of yourself out of self-love and care.
One last note, if you are struggling with compulsive exercise, over-exercise, or have an unhealthy relationship with exercise, part of being intuitive may mean taking a break from exercise entirely. Just like if you injure yourself and need to rest and recover, you may need to stop exercising to heal and recover your relationship with movement and your body. Remember that it is not forever, and it gives you space to better heal your relationship with yourself, with nutrition, and with movement.