We live in a world obsessed with burning calories and adhering to strict exercise routines. In this pursuit of trying to sculpt our bodies into something else, we have lost our ability to tune into what our bodies actually desire. Intuitive movement offers up a different approach to exercise.
Intuitive movement comes from the intuitive eating framework. Principle number 9 of intuitive eating is “movement- feel the difference.” Intuitive movement embraces the idea of moving our bodies for pleasure and to feel good, while appreciating all forms of movement.
Intuitive Movement Benefits
We know that exercise comes with a wide range of benefits to our overall health. When we shift the focus of movement from purely body sculpting goals, we can appreciate the wide range of advantages exercise and intuitive movement offer, including:
Improved mood, sleep and energy levels
Better mental clarity
Reduction in stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms
Greater attunement to, and relationship with, our bodies
Decreased risk in chronic disease such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes
Improvement in other health conditions (i.e. elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol)
Retention of muscle mass and improved cardiovascular health
Increased likelihood of consistent and frequent exercise
9 Tips to Help you get Started with Intuitive Movement
1. Change your purpose for exercise
First things first, you need to shift away from focusing solely on the external outcomes such as burning calories, losing weight, or closing your fitness rings on your apple watch and instead, direct your attention inward and tune into how movement makes you feel.
This requires a mindset shift, and just like the mindset shift required with intuitive eating, it takes time. Part of this may require removing yourself from diet culturey fitness. Whether that’s switching gyms, curating your social media feed or working with a non-diet, size inclusive personal trainer like Kira Onysko.
You can click here to learn more about Kira’s diet culture-free on demand workouts and 1:1 coaching with my affiliate link.
2. Feel the difference with intuitive movement
The great thing about intuitive movement, or exercise in general, is the fact that you reap immediate benefits. Think of how you feel after you exercise. You’re rejuvenated, re-energized, your mood is boosted, overall you are feeling GOOD.
More often than not we want to feel good, therefore we are going to engage in activities that make us feel good. Focusing on the way you want to feel can make the world of a difference when it comes to exercise.
For example, Sally has a desk job, she spends most of her work day sitting which makes her feel tired, uncomfortable and restless. For this reason, Sally uses her lunch break to re-energize and feel better by going for a walk. Sally does this everyday because she doesn’t like feeling the effects of sitting all day.
Lisa also has a desk job. She keeps telling herself she needs to get up and move because she’s been gaining weight. She tells herself she will start walking daily at lunch in order to lose weight. Lisa doesn’t automatically lose weight after a single walk, nor does she after multiple walks.
Based on their goals, only Sally is noticing the immediate benefits (i.e. feeling good), whereas Lisa is not noticing immediate benefits (i.e. weight loss). Since Lisa doesn’t notice the immediate effects she gives up. Whereas Sally has been walking consistently on her lunch break for years now.
You see how much of a difference it makes when you focus on what makes you feel good rather than a number on the scale?
3. Engage in joyful movement
A key factor in intuitive movement is joyful movement. If you don’t enjoy the movement you’re engaging in, you’re likely not going to have a great relationship with exercise and you will be less likely to stick with it.
We know that exercise is important, it provides numerous health benefits that a sedentary lifestyle will not. Therefore, it’s crucial to find your own form of joyful movement.
Remember Sally and Lisa? Well I forgot to mention, Sally loves walking whereas Lisa hates it. That was another reason Lisa didn’t stick with it.
Keep in mind that the best type of exercise for you is the exercise that you enjoy the most and therefore are most likely to stick with.
4. Allow for flexibility in your exercise routine
We have already discussed the two key pieces to intuitive movement (joyful movement and feel good movement). In order for exercise to feel good and be enjoyed you need to allow for flexibility in your routine.
This means removing any strict workout plans or extreme daily exercise goals. Instead, listen to your body and incorporate rest days and moments of gentle movement to honor your body’s need for rest and rejuvenation.
You may enjoy going to the gym and engaging in high intensity workouts and you likely feel great after (most of the time). But if you do this 7 days a week for months on end, it’s not going to feel so good anymore.
You’re going to be tired, worn out and potentially succumb to an injury, at that point it won’t be too enjoyable either.
5. Recognize that all movement counts
Diet culture has conditioned us to believe that in order for exercise to be “worth it” you need to get your heart rate up, sweat or spend at least 30 consistent minutes moving. Well, the fact is this is a bunch of crock.
Every little bit of movement counts and by that I mean, all movement (regardless the duration) contributes to making us feel better and improving our health.
A large systematic review looking at 29 different articles revealed that “physical activity of any bout duration is associated with improved health outcomes, which includes all cause-mortality.”
So next time you think, “there’s no point in going for a 10-minute walk on my short coffee break”, or “there’s no point in taking the stairs,” think again.
These little movements add up! If you start taking advantage of these short bouts of movement, such as taking the stairs each time you leave your office, you might notice you feel a lot better at the end of your work day than you did before when you avoided those extra steps at all costs.
6. Wear comfortable clothes
You know that shirt hanging in your closet that is too small so every time you lift your arms your belly hangs out? Or that pair of pants that you need to constantly pull up every time you move? Get rid of those.
If you feel uncomfortable in your clothing you’re going to have a hard time getting yourself to move, especially if with every step you’re pulling up your pants or every arm movement you’re pulling down your shirt. If that’s the case you’re going to get annoyed and quit moving real quick.
Choose clothing that allows for unrestricted movement and makes you feel your best (most comfortable).
7. Take a break from your fitness trackers
Whether it’s a Fitbit, apple watch or some other kind of fitness tracking device, you may want to take a break from it.
I get it, these can be useful tools in SOME circumstances. But I will tell you one thing, your fitness tracker can’t feel the things your body is feeling. It doesn’t know when you’re sick, exhausted, coming close to an injury or in need of a rest day. Only your body can tell you that.
Oftentimes individuals get fixated on reaching, or even surpassing, their daily fitness goals (based on the settings of their fitness tracker).
In turn you may exercise when your body really needs rest. Or, if you decide to go against what your fitness tracker is telling you, you may end up feeling guilty about it. This is similar to the food guilt we experience when we eat something “bad.”
Just like there is no place for guilt in our eating experiences, there is also no place for guilt in our movement choices. If your fitness tracker is getting in the way of tuning into your body’s needs or leading you to feel guilty, my suggestion is to get rid of it, or at least take a break from it.
8. Learn how to accept your body
The reason many people don’t engage in intuitive movement is because exercise is more often than not seen as a means to change one’s body. Therefore the decision to exercise is guided solely by the attempt to lose weight or “get toned,” rather than to move in enjoyable ways that feel good.
If you learn to accept your body your guiding principle to movement will look a lot different. Body acceptance is difficult in today’s society as we are told we should all look a certain way (you know that thin “ideal” body they portray all over the media), even though it’s unrealistic for the majority of people.
Though it is difficult to accept your own body you can get there. My suggestion is to start by curating your social media feed. Diversify it to include all body types as well as search specifically for “body positive” or “weight-neutral,” accounts.
9. Incorporate intuition into all aspects of your life
Remember, intuitive movement is a component of intuitive eating, a process that rejects the diet culture ways. Intuitive movement and intuitive eating are often incorporated into one’s life simultaneously.
If you’re ready to take the next step to a more intuitive you, checkout this FREE mini-training: “Getting Started with Intuitive Eating.”
Intuitive Movement- Feel the Difference
In a world obsessed with external outcomes and rigid exercise routines, intuitive movement offers a refreshing approach that prioritizes pleasure, self-care, and individuality.
By shifting our focus from calorie burn and body sculpting goals to how movement makes us feel, we can unlock a whole new world of benefits.