How to find joy in exercise and find joy in movement

How do you view exercise? Do you use it as a way to burn calories, lose weight, or compensate for what you ate? When we approach exercise this way, it can feel like punishment and wear on motivation, self-confidence and mental wellbeing. The good news — it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, we’re here to encourage you to explore the joyful movement mentality and learn how to exercise in a way that bene ts your mind, body, and soul.

What is joyful movement?

Joyful movement is the ninth principle of the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating, created by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Just as intuitive eating emphasizes improving your relationship with food, joyful movement focuses on rebuilding your relationship with exercise. Joyful movement is a way of approaching physical activity that emphasizes pleasure, choice, exibility, celebration, and intuition.


Joyful movement can be difficult to define because we all have different things that bring us joy. The best part about joyful movement is that you get to de ne what is pleasurable for you. Some people love playing a sport while others may enjoy hiking. Find what movements make your body, feel good and incorporate them into your routine.


Exercise can often feel like something you have to do. When viewed this
way, it can feel as if we are adding another chore to our never-ending to-do-have the right to rest when you’re feeling tired or burnt out. Listen to your body and make the choice that feels best for you.


Joyful movement is open to all types of movement. Everyone has different preferences and abilities when it comes to movement, and there is no “right way to be active.” Joyful movement emphasizes moving when it feels right and taking the plessure out of “should” and “should not” by adopting a exible mindset. Also, what feels joyful and fun now may be di erent than what your body preferred ve years ago, and that’s OK. Your preferences likely will change over time, in the same way that your body changes over time — accept this with exibility.


When you approach exercise with the mindset of losing weight or compensating for what you ate, it feels like punishment and this strips the experience of joy. You will get more out of exercise if you see it as a way to listen to and connect with your body and celebrate how powerful you are.


It is extremely important to listen to your body, especially when it comes to exercise. Pay attention to the cues that your body is sending you before, during, and after movement. Notice the signals, listen to what they are telling you, understand why they are being sent, and follow them. If you feel sti before movement, take it slow. If you feel empowered during movement, keep pushing. If you feel sore after movement, enjoy a rest day.

Embrace mindfulness

Mindfulness is a state of being aware of your feelings, thoughts, and sensations in the present moment. When you are engaging in joyful movement nd your breath, feel your body, pay attention to your surroundings, and be aware of how you feel throughout the process. This will allow you to have a more positive and therapeutic experience.

Reflect on what makes you feel safe

Safety is key when it comes to exercise. When participating in activities, make sure you have supportive equipment (shoes, yoga blocks, chair/wall for balance support, hiking poles, etc.) to help you feel safe and capable. Some movement options may need some modi cations to t your ability level and unique needs. Work with a professional, if accessible, or nd online resources to help make movement safe and enjoyable for you.

Incorporate movement into your daily life

The journey to discovering joyful movement does not require that you take big steps and make big changes. There are hundreds of little ways that you can add movement to your daily life. This could look like taking your dog for a walk in the afternoon, having a walking work meeting, or playing catch with your friends or family. Again, joyful movement is not exclusive to certain types of movement. Get creative and nd ways to make movement a part of your daily routine.

Ideas for joyful movement

Everyone enjoys different types of movement. Here are some ideas for how you can bring joyful movement into your life:

• Take your dog for a walk
• Play with kids or grandkids
• Spend some time in your garden
• Take a hike
• Go for a bike ride
• Go shopping
• Take a yoga class
• Go kayaking
• Take a walk around the block after a meal• Lift weights
• Dance
• Go for a run
• Join a team sport
• Take a martial arts class
• Play an instrument
• Walk while on the phone
• Swim at a lake or local pool
• Stretch when you wake up/go to bed

More information

For additional resources to healthy eating, check out programs from our registered dietitian nutritionists and-services. More health tips are also available at the College of Health and Human Sciences Pinterest board. Find delicious and healthy recipes on our Recipes page! Lastly, don’t forget to sign up for the KRNC monthly newsletter!

Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center