Thursday, June 24, 2010

Never exercise again! (well, "sorta")

I'm starting a revolution today! Let's banish the word EXERCISE from our vocabulary. Want to join me? Ok, let me share my philosophy. As you may know, I work with eating disorder patients in an inpatient treatment setting.

One area of the disorder is often reflected in obsessive over-exercising. During a processing therapy session last week, we explored our connections to exercise and the "triggering" aspect of falling back into old habits. The group struggled with letting go of old ideas and beliefs about exercise while trying to build a new, healthy relationship with activity.

Have you ever had one of those "light-bulb" moments where a perfect answer simply presents itself? Well, I had one during this session. Stay with me for this concept. I explained that there are many avenues of interaction with the world and one important avenue is language. Often, our language "gets away" from us because we speak in words and phrases that are habitual or unconsciously expressed.

Many times, because of our life experiences, we attach meaning to words that limits our ability to accept other, alternate meanings and may lead to miscommunication due to our idea of what a word means as opposed to someone elses understanding of the same word. In eating disorder recovery, we learn to recognize and be more mindful of our language and the conversations of those around us. At the end of this therapy session, I proposed that we totally eliminate the word EXERCISE from our vocabulary!

While the word itself may be harmless, the connotation of the concept of EXERCISE is the ability to impose rigid control over the body in an effort to lose weight and build muscle. Whether you have an eating disorder or not, the very word EXERCISE may trigger feelings of tension, inadequacy, and rejection. Instead, I encouraged the group to adopt the word MOVEMENT in the place of EXERCISE. How amazing! MOVEMENT seems so fluid, so liberating, so natural!

When we changed the conversation to a discussion of MOVEMENT, the atmosphere changed. Instead of the tension and demand that the idea of EXERCISE reflected on their faces, a brightness and joy was expressed as each person shared why they loved to MOVE and how they loved to MOVE. Somehow, it became a healthy and honest thing to connect to - MOVEMENT. It was a revelation; it was a revolution! So, go forth and MOVE!



  1. My friend and I are both Registered Yoga Teachers (with the Yoga Alliance). For several years we have been teaching a twice weekly class for her Relief Society. Using the body to instruct the mind and spirit is a very powerful tool, and completely in line with gospel principles. We all enjoy the movement, the companionship and the philosophy.

  2. I had a conversation once with my daughter, who was majoring in health science. We were discussing the negative connotations associated with the word 'exercise.' I suggested that, especially with children, we should substitute the phrase 'active play.' I like this better than the words 'exercise' even 'movement' because, who doesn't like to play?