I don’t exercise to burn calories / what I do instead

Lets be honest, exercise and diet trends are all over the internet telling us we need to do x y and z to look a certain way. These never-ending reminders of weight loss and body image can be exhausting to keep up with! This makes feeling comfortable in your body difficult, especially with so much miss-information out there. I too am someone who in the past has struggled with food and exercise. Poor body image, pressure to exercise and eat perfectly lead me to under-eat and overexercise. Thankfully, I have learned how to move my body in a way that keeps me happy and healthy. Here’s why I don’t exercise to burn calories / what I do instead.

I WORKOUT TO FEEL ENERGIZED

It might sound counter-intuitive, but exercise can actually give you more energy and less fatigue in the long run. If you aren’t moving around, your body doesn’t need to use many resources to create energy. Your energy production is then low and you feel tired, fatigued or unmotivated. Any exercise or physical activity that gets your heart rate up, blood flowing and releases endorphins is going to raise your energy levels.

Yes, exercise can drain your energy, especially after a long, intense session. But regular, consistent exercise that keeps you fit and healthy will ultimately perk you up. This is why I have not focused on the calories burned during a workout in years! I am not looking to drain myself of energy. Instead, when I go for a walk or when I do a workout I am looking to feel better and more energetic, not exhausted or drained. The key is to find movement that you enjoy, and can stick with. This way you can reap the ongoing benefits of a regular workout routine.

I WORKOUT FOR MENTAL HEALTH

If you’ve ever felt more clear-headed or energetic after workout, it’s really not all in your imagination. Exercise really does improve your mental clarity and brain function. Don’t hit the gym or smash an intense HIIT session just for your body. Do it for your brain, too.

This is the positive aspect of exercising that I absolutely love. I know that after some movement my mindset will be clearer, sharper and I will feel more positive and motivated. This comes in handy on days when I am having a tough time because it gives me a significant mood boost. Even on my best days I can reap the benefits because I feel a sense of accomplishment. Exercise can even help me navigate through a tough time. Exercise doesn’t have to be intense to have mental health benefits, but if you can get out even for a brisk walk, your brain will thank you! 

walking in nature / image from unsplash

I GO FOR WALKS BECAUSE I LOVE IT

Cardiovascular health is important. However long strenuous amounts of cardio is not always beneficial and my body definitely does not like it! Don’t be fooled, walking can improves fitness, alleviate depression and fatigue, improve our mood, creates less stress on joints, improve endurance, circulation, and the list goes on.

Walking is beneficial for the mind too. Just a ten min walk can improve your mood, attentiveness and self-confidence versus the same time spent sitting. Walking in nature can reduce ruminating over negative experiences and negative emotions. Being outdoors can also be a diverse workout. Whether you’re on the beach or walking up a hill – your body is encountering a constantly changing environment.

Walking is something I can do daily, it is far less stressful for my body and relaxing for my mind. My focus is not to walk to burn off energy but to move my body in a way that is comforting to me. It is also a chance to clear my head, get some fresh air, sunshine, listen to a podcast, music or to just listen to the sounds of nature. It is an activity I genuinely enjoy and can continue doing for many years to come.

I FOCUS ON HOW I WANT TO FEEL, NOT HOW I WANT TO LOOK

We are always told how workouts can help you lose weight but there are so many better health benefits to workouts that don’t involve weight loss at all. People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense of well-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, feel more relaxed and positive about themselves. And it’s also a powerful tool for many common mental health challenges.

Over the years my mindset has shifted by focusing on how I want to feel through exercise. It sounds insignificant but it’s made a huge impact on my life. I’ve become more aware of how powerfully exercise affects my emotional state, my mental well being, and my stress levels. In other words, these factors greatly contribute directly to my happiness. I do not devote hours of my day to train at the gym, sweat buckets or run for miles. You can reap all the physical and mental health benefits of exercise even with thirty minutes of moderate exercise five times a week. 

weights / image from usnplash

I INCORPORATE REST DAYS

I use to be the person who struggles with rest due to having a constant desire to always be working out to reach my exercise goals. However rest is just as important as working out, for both mind and body. Incorporating rest days allows time for you body to recuperate and grow stronger from all of the workouts that you have completed.

Believe me – without rest you are at a greater risk at burning yourself out, loosing motivation, feeling fatigued and being at risk for injury. Now, I pay attention to how my body is feeling. On rest days, I opt for less vigorous workouts, like a walk or I take a complete rest day and focus on other things in my life. Rest days have allowed me to pause and listen to my body instead of pushing my body beyond its limits. Never underestimate the importance of giving your body enough rest so that it can properly repair and perform better.

I WORK OUT IN A SUSTAINABLE WAY

When I started working out, I started by doing it all, cardio, weights, circuits – lets just say I did too much at once. It’s very difficult to do everything at once and be healthy. Overexercising can truly negatively impact your physical and mental being. A exercise regimen should instead encompass as much of what makes you a fully integrated living person as possible.

Working out for me is not about doing a specific exercise for a specific amount of time only to burn a certain amount of calories. It is about moving my body in different ways and enjoying the workouts that I do. It is also about being in tune with my body and how it is feeling. Some days I will just go for a walk. Other days I will incorporate strength training. Some days I will do a body weight workout and other days I just need some rest. My goal is to continue having a functional body for many years to come rather than to burn myself out, feel fatigued, constantly stiff or sore. Focusing on moving your body in ways which you can sustain throughout your life is crucial.

coffee and flowers / image from usnplash

Learning to trust and listen to your body takes a lot of time and patience. I’ve learned to focus on what makes me feel happy, strong, and confident in my own body. This will look different from person to person based on our own needs and preferences, which is completely normal. The activities that make you feel confident one day may not tomorrow. Try to become in tune with what you’re feeling and what your body needs from you right now. Sometimes, what your body really needs is acceptance. 

Disclaimer – I am not a health care professional. This blog provides general information and discussions about health and wellness. The information and other content provided in this blog are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.