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Why Do You Exercise?

By Katie Jeffrey

yoga class - smJust as it’s important to understand why you eat, it’s important to understand why you’re physically active so you can find a healthy balance between training, competition, rest, and living your life to the fullest. Do you work out to improve your athletic performance? Perhaps you exercise because it makes you feel great, reduces stress, gives you energy, and improves your self-esteem. Or maybe you exercise because you feel you “should” to maintain your weight, keep your blood pressure down, raise your good cholesterol levels, or lower your blood sugar.

So, why do you exercise?

Pause to make a list of reasons why you exercise. I’ll wait.

Now look at your list and rate how each reason makes you feel. Do you feel positive, negative, or neutral when you look at your reasons? For instance, if one of your reasons was “Exercise reduces stress,” this might evoke positive feelings because exercise helps you feel calm and in charge of your life. If one of your reasons is “To lose weight,” this may elicit negative feelings because exercise feels like a means to end.

When your reasons for being active are related to the intrinsic value, such as the way you feel, you may feel more inspired to exercise regularly. When your reasons are related to extrinsic rewards, such as the way you look, it might feel like exercise is punishment for eating.

To help you understand the difference, ask yourself the following question: “If I don’t exercise as I’d planned, do I feel disappointed or do I feel guilty? In other words, “I am disappointed that I didn’t get to be physically active today,” or “I am a bad person because I didn’t work out today.”

Feeling guilty or ashamed based on what you did or didn’t do usually means you’re judging yourself, and that doesn’t lead to healthy, long term exercise patterns. Being mindful and removing judgment about exercise allows you to be present to experience moving your body for the sake of moving. This increases enjoyment and reduces the likelihood of burnout because you are listening to how physical activity makes you feel. Mindfulness allows you to be gentle with yourself and find a healthy balance between exercise and the rest of your life.

How can you bring more mindfulness to your physical activity?



About the author

Katie Jeffrey, MS, RDN, CSSD Katie Jeffrey, MS, RDN, CSSD, is an athlete who is passionate about mindful eating and living. She is a Licensed and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and co-author of the upcoming book, “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Athletes: A Mindful Eating Program for Sports and Life” with Michelle May, M.D. Katie is also a speaker and a licensed Facilitator of the Am I Hungry? ® mindful eating program. She is the founder and CEO of FitNutrition, LLC which provides individual nutrition counseling, sports performance nutrition counseling, nutrition consulting and dynamic scientifically-based nutrition presentations on various topics for all age groups. Katie works with individuals to optimize their health by examining all aspects of their life as it relates to food and eating behaviors. As a specialist in sports nutrition, she is passionate about working with athletes to enhance their athletic performance.

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