Movement and play are some of the best parts of being a kid. Kids crawl, climb, hula-hoop and somersault with abandon. Finger painting, building forts and playing dress up are essential activities.
Then there’s a shift, and we start to think that stuff isn’t for us anymore. We value work over play. Sitting at our desks over movement. Doing what we’re supposed to do over living and LOVING our lives. We run ourselves ragged and might even start to forget what really matters—feeling our best and celebrating our precious selves.
I’m here to tell you that movement and play are just as important (and appropriate!) for kids as they are for adults. They’re life forces. Spiritual gold. The passions and pursuits that make us feel alive. That’s what renewing—the fifth and final pillar in my 5 Pillars of Wellness—is all about.
This post is the last in my 5 Pillars of Wellness series. We’ve talked about optimizing what you’re eating, drinking and thinking, and how you’re resting. Now it’s time to focus on how to take care of yourself through renewing. I can’t think of a better way to supercharge this new year with a whole lotta motivation and energy!
What does renewing really mean?
The renewing pillar is about moving your body, pursuing your passions and feeding your soul. To renew is to do what you love with the people and furry friends you love. As you can imagine, that can mean a lot of different things to different people. So to simplify matters, I break this pillar into two primary categories: movement and play.
Today we’ll dive into each of these aspects of renewing, talk about why they’re so important and how you can cultivate them in your life. Ready to have some fun?
How to Renew and Take Care of Yourself with Mindful Movement
The first part of the renewing pillar is about moving your body. I probably don’t have to tell you about the importance of exercise, but in case you need a reminder that it’s good for more than just burning calories…
Mindful movement helps:
- Strengthen your muscles
- Boost your endurance and energy
- Keep you mobile, balanced and flexible as you age
- Improve sleep, focus and mental clarity
- Release stress and other tension
- Maintain good mental health
- Reduce the risk for chronic health challenges such as heart disease, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes
- And so much more!
Long story short: movement is one of the best ways to take care of yourself.
What exercise IS and ISN’T
Let’s clear this up right away: Exercise is not punishment. We get a lot of messages throughout our lives that exercise has to be painful, extremely strenuous and something you dread. But that mindset is totally demotivating and simply not true!
Exercise can be whatever you want it to be. Ask your body what it really needs. Movement can be mindful, intuitive, accessible and gentle. And yes, it can be challenging and sweaty too, if that feels good to you. It should refuel your energy tank and leave you feeling refreshed—that’s why it’s part of the renewing pillar!
Above all else, prioritize fun and enjoyment in your workout routine. If you’re not having a good time, give yourself permission to try something else (switching it up isn’t the same thing as giving up).
How often should you work out?
The amount and intensity of exercise you need on a weekly basis depends on factors like age, lifestyle, whether or not you have chronic health challenges, etc. But generally speaking, aim to move your body four to five times a week for at least 30-45 minutes per session.
It’s also a good idea to vary your activities so you get a mix of strength and aerobic exercise (and keep things interesting!). Jump on the trampoline with your kids, do some light stretching at the office, go for a hike with your pup, try chair yoga… whatever makes you smile and sweat.
If you have any questions about your specific exercise needs, please consult with your integrative doc!
Tips for busting through common exercise roadblocks
This might sound familiar: You decide it’s time to recommit to your exercise routine. You’re excited and motivated at first—staying on track might even feel easy. Then one day you slip up and beat yourself up for it. And that negative self-talk makes you feel like crap, so you skip your next session… and the next session… you get the picture. I’ve been there!
So let’s chat about how to navigate some of the most common exercise challenges so you can start and stick with your routine.
Challenge: You have trouble finding time for exercise and it’s often the first thing to go when life gets busy.
Solution: Move where you are, when you can! We may think that exercise means spending hours at the gym every week, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Get up from your desk and do a few jumping jacks every hour. Go for a quick stroll after each meal. You get the idea! Breaking movement down into short sessions makes it feel more doable and easier to fit into your busy schedule. Also, remember that a few minutes a day is better than no minutes. Thank yourself for making the time, however much it is!
Challenge: You can’t seem to find an activity you really enjoy and want to stick with. It might feel like you’ve already tried every form of exercise out there.
Solution: Actually doing it is the only thing that needs to be consistent about your exercise routine. Just because some people fall in love with running marathons and do it for the rest of their lives doesn’t mean you have to! Go line dancing one day and cross-country skiing the next. There are so many ways to move your body, so switch things up as often as you want.
Challenge: You get discouraged when you don’t see results on the timeline you set for yourself. You feel like throwing in the towel if you don’t meet your goals.
Solution: It’s time for a mindset shift. Rather than thinking of exercise as a means to an end (weight loss, endurance, muscle growth, etc.), try to see it as an essential way to take care of yourself. When you move simply to honor your body and stay well, you’ll enjoy it more and probably do it more often!
Challenge: You find it hard to get and stay motivated on your own. You thrive with other people around, so plugging in headphones and lifting weights in solitude isn’t your idea of a good time.
Solution: Moving your body doesn’t have to be a solo endeavor. Make a date to walk and talk with a friend. Call a loved one while you’re on the treadmill (don’t mind the heavy breathing!). Sign up for a group class where you can meet new people and get your sweat on at the same time (win-win!).