I Used to Exercise for My Body Shape, Now I Exercise for My Body

Since I was a kid, I have always been high energy and active. When I was 10 years old, you would find me letting out steam and having a blast playing football and soccer with my friends during recess. But as I got older, my understanding of exercise changed, it became less about movement and more about manipulation.

Not sure where to pinpoint it exactly, but somewhere down the road, in my adolescent years, the messages of being active to maintain my body size started to trump the plethora of other critically important reasons that we all need to stay active. During that time, going to the gym or for a run was more about keeping a flat stomach, than keeping a healthy heart.

The motivation to move based on body shape proved to complicate things. Exercise became more about success or failure, and I could become frustrated that my workouts weren’t “showing results” if my body wasn’t responding in a way I wanted it to. In a way, exercise was something I resented… you know the thought, “why do I even bother?”

Well years later, I can tell you I now know why I bother. I bother because my heart health depends on cardiovascular exercise, my brain thrives on the happy hormones (endorphins) that movement produces, and the use of my muscles and bones help them stay strong and durable so I can participate in the many activities of life…because of exercise I have energy, I have regulated hormones, I have less pain.

Freeing myself of exercise for body shape was an important thing for me. It took away the notion of “I have been unhealthy this week, I won’t even bother exercising” to the understanding that “my body is in need of movement for its health, so I am going to go for a run.”

When you exercise for your body, and not for your body shape, it allows you to get much more in tune with what your body really needs. To lessen the judgement that you place on the “perfect” form of exercise, and to have fun with whatever movement brings to you.

Whether it is because of the magazine covers in the grocery isles, or the way fitness is portrayed in our society, I often feel like it is easy to be lured into the “turn fat into fit” obsession around exercise, and forget all the other reasons to move your body.

In my opinion there is nothing wrong with exercise for fitness, and losing weight is sometimes exactly what people need for their health, but from my experience, the more we let go of exercising for body shape and rather start exercising for our body, the more we end up valuing and honouring our bodies for what they are here to do.