How Joyful Movement Can Replace Cosmetic Exercise
Joyful Movement Through Yoga

How Joyful Movement Can Replace Cosmetic Exercise

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How To Move For Enjoyment

What Is Joyful Movement?

I get it. Joyful movement- or really any notion of moving the body without subtle tones of “no pain no gain” attached probably sounds a little like something out of a fantasy land on an episode of my little pony. 

A clever patient once told me “Don’t ever go to the gym when you’re not up for it.  Otherwise moving your body gets the same enthusiasm as taking a trip to the dentists office.”

I concur with that!  Joyful movement is the movement we do to enrich our body and mind. 

Joyful fitness is NOT the movement we might do to serve diet culture or a weight loss regimen. 

Exercise that is not focused on calories burned or in response to what we eat is mindful and serves the body-not social ideals. 


Collection of rolled yoga matts in assorted colors
There Are Many Benefits For Activity Besides Weight Loss

Why Is Joyful Movement Important?

I think we spend so much time attaching the idea of physical movement to shrinking our body, that we completely overshadow the vast health benefits of activity! 

Physical activity is a great way to: 

The emphasis here is on “joyful movement.” This means movement you enjoy-not that which feels like a chore and can actually increase stress and anxiety. 

A routine designed to overshadow these awesome benefits with weight reduction, or exercise we hate will be one that ends abruptly and with resentment. 


Woman with arm reached out under the sun
Joy In Movement

How Do You Exercise Intuitively?

It’s sometimes difficult to transition our mindset from “cosmetic exercise,” or exercise that has a primary goal of changing the body weight/shape/size to a routine of movement we are doing with and for our body’s benefit. 

As children, we naturally get joy from movement. However,  this is interrupted at a young age.  

To bring back simple joy in movement, try some of these activities

  • Sports
  • Dancing 
  • Walking (take the dog or a friend)
  • Yardwork
  • Organizing
  • Hula Hooping
  • Swimming
  • Aerobics Games
  • Tag
Woman In Yoga Pose
Joyful Fitness

How Do I Make Mindful Movement A Routine?

The idea of a mindful movement routine can actually be a really tricky thing. 

It’s important we don’t allow our ambition for movement to fall into the desire for weight loss trap-which often involves unwavering rigidity in a movement routine. 

Here are some things that might help you get started: 

  • Make movement a non-negotiable (set it in the schedule like an appointment). This DOESN’T mean we fail if we’ve missed a day.  We’re simply trying to establish a habit. 
  • Remember that every bit of movement counts- 10 minutes or 60 all have value!
  • Make it the easiest thing in the world. After all, our bodies weren’t designed to exist stagnant. Have workout gear/shoes on hand.  Clean of your  exercise gear (clothes piled on the treadmill folks? I see you!).  Keep your favorite workout videos handy. 
  • Keep a list of exercises you enjoy. 
  • Keep an active music playlist
person holding softball mitt in field
Planned Movement Doesn't Need To Be Ritualistic

Will Making Exercise Part of My Routine Feel Restrictive?

When it comes to exercise, it’s important to remember we can honor a routine without being rigid and ritualistic with exercise. 

When our body is trying something new, it’s important to give that activity some time (usually 1-2 weeks) before discrediting it as an activity we despise. 

Untrained muscles may feel resistant to exercises we may otherwise enjoy if they were done with repetition. 

This does NOT mean we aren’t honoring our bodies! 

A great example of this is dancing.  When we first begin to learn a new dance style, our bodies will feel awkward and maybe even a bit sore as we work a new set of muscles. 

We may feel embarrassed as we fumble through new dance moves. 

However, with practice, we can feel a great sense of reward and connection as we master the steps of our new dance routine!

It’s important to look for little wins along the way such as nailing timing, intricate spins or learning to connect with our dance partner. 

 Finding little movement wins will keep the joy in the exercise during the training phases. 

Here are some ways to keep movement joyful while following a routine: 

  • If you need to take a day off- do it! 
  • If a routine becomes mundane try a different activity or sport for a while. We can always return to one we’ve already practiced. 
  • Pull in a friend for the activity. 
  • Be comfortable
person holding phone with tracked steps and looking at pedometer
How Pedometers Can Disrupt Movement Goals

How Counting Your Steps Can Ruin Joyful Fitness

The first time I heard about pedometers, I thought the idea was a silly one. Why would I want to monitor my step track from the bathroom to the kitchen!  

Then naturally- I got one.  

At first, my little fit bit was all the rage.  I convinced myself I needed to walk in circles for 8 hours a day when in reality my usual workout would’ve taken 30 minutes. 

No steps were enough. 

I actually found myself discontinuing activities I enjoyed (biking and swimming) because I couldn’t track them on the evil partner chained around my wrist. 

My eating disorder voice stepped in and quickly reassured me that the device was necessary in order to remind my already active self to get up from my desk every two hours.  

Further, downloading the app onto my phone prompted all sorts of other “diety” messages on my social media feeds and ad suggestions.  

My virtual world became a toxic mess of weigh centric garbage.  All because of a portable little step tracker I would never fully satisfy no matter how many steps I fed it. 

It took me 4 years to remove this unintended snake from my movement routine.  

If you currently use a pedometer,  It may be worth examining your true relationship with it. 

Is your pedometer helping or distracting you from truly moving for your body in a joyful way?


Person Swimming
Exercise Doesn't Make Us Superior To Others

You're Not Elite Because Your Exercising

When we pursue health on our own through physical activity, we feel the need to bring others in or “educate” them on the wise ways we’ve learned about the world.  Resist this temptation! 

Just because we’ve found our own truth in movement that nourishes, does not mean we know what’s best for others. 

We are not heroes because we’ve mastered our own movement authenticity!

I repeat- We don’t know the fitness needs and desires of other bodies because we’ve ascribed to what makes us feel good in our own body. 

Further, we do not have superiority over bodies that are moving differently than ours, or lacking structured movement altogether. 

I think moving away from the desire to “teach others” how to joyfully move, is one key step in recognizing how to connect with our own bodies through movement. 

What works for one person does not work for everyone.

Diet culture often hijacks our experience with exercise by honing the idea we are “disciplined” or “elite” for following a routine that put our bodies into a specific mold. 

Leadership is often assigned to those who first fit cultural assignments.  

This is often no different when it comes to ideas of fitness. Thus we must be careful how we are engaging in exercise, and sharing our experiences with the world. 


Two women walking in sports gear
Find Friends To Practice Joyful Fitness With

Reclaim Your Relationship With Movement

What are some ways that you love to move but maybe haven’t engaged in for a while? 

Were you a hula hooping champion as a kid? Did you love to play games like laser tag? Were you a freestyle dancer (even if it was only in front of your mirror?)

Starting with some of these activities can be an easy way to decide how you truly love to move your body and what you’ve been doing to serve the diet world. 

If you’re not sure how you like to move- take a break! Relax for a few weeks or a few months and don’t move again until you’re feeling a true motivation again!

Sometimes we can land in an identity crisis if we find activities we thought we enjoyed really just served our desire to shrink our bodies. 

If this is you- its time to put exercise on pause for a bit.  

What are some of the most exciting ways you’ve found to move your body? 

Shena Jaramillo. Registered Dietitian

Hi I'm Shena. I'm an eating disorders dietitian in Washington state. I hold bachelors degrees nutrition & dietetics, cultural anthropology & psychology. I believe in honoring your hunger, having your cake whenever you want it, and that critically analyzing diet culture can change the world!

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