An Argument for Less Intense Exercise

I learned about exercise by watching my mom.

For my entire life, my mom has taken daily, 3-mile walks. She’s not fancy or precious about it – she just laces up her sneakers, wears old shorts and a t-shirt, and walks the same route in our neighborhood every single day.

It takes her about 45-minutes. But if she doesn’t have much time, she’ll squeeze in a 20- or 30-minute walk.

That’s it.

The thing that I have come to appreciate, particularly as I’ve gotten older, is how un-fussy and easy she is about it.

She’s not looking for a form of exercise that is painful, or that she dreads.

On the contrary, she walks because it makes her feel good – it clears her mind and makes her feel calm and happy.

She likes being outside, she doesn’t have time to drive to an exercise class, and she needs something that is flexible because her schedule varies from day to day.

Of course, she also does it because it is good exercise. Walking nearly every day for most of her life has helped her to stay fit and healthy and looking good, in my humble daughterly opinion. But walking isn’t something that is intensely painful or only feels good “after.” It feels good from the first step.

Part of the reason I wanted to share my mom’s story is because I’ve come to realize how deeply powerful behavioral modeling can be. It’s one thing to “get” something intellectually, and it’s a very different thing to see it in action, over and over.

I saw my mom lace up her sneakers, walk out the front door, and return revived and refreshed, every day of my life.

It wasn’t a big deal.

It wasn’t hard or painful.

It didn’t take much time.

It didn’t cost anything.

It didn’t require a ton of willpower.

She liked it, it was easy and felt good. So she did it every day.

I think that too often the “role models” for fitness that we see and think we should aspire to are people who are running marathons, or who have perfectly toned arms or six-pack abs. We think that we’re supposed to want and work toward that level of fitness.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being extremely fit, with working out until you are complete exhausted and sore the next day. Intense physical movement can be such a good thing, for so many people.

But my concern is that admidst all the advertising and gear and cults around Crossfit, SoulCycle, running marathons, or simply joining a costly gym, I don’t see commercials or magazine articles or complicated self help books about “taking a walk every day.” Because it’s free, and anyone can do it, it doesn’t seem as exciting of a goal for many people, and companies certainly aren’t spending money making it seem sexy.

As a result, we think that we need to go to a class or a gym or join a “group” in order to be healthy. We often think that exercise has to be time-consuming, expensive, complicated, or painful.

My mom showed me a different way.

Of course, I’ve tried intense workouts over the years. And I do enjoy a Pilates or yoga class once or twice a week, even though I have to drive to them, and they cost money.

But I always come back to my daily walk.

So I wanted to share it with you.

Not because you have to do it. Far from it! But simply because I don’t see this approach to exercise — moderate, super-easy, not-painful, cheap and pleasant — advertised as much as I think it should be.

So, in an attempt to equalize the playing field, here is my personal mom-inspired exercise regimen:

1. Put on sneakers.

2. Open front door.

3. Walk outside for 45 minutes.

(optional) Wear a hat if it’s cold.

And afterwards, I’d love to hear from you in the comments: Do you feel like only intense exercise “counts” ? What would you do differently if it was okay to exercise without it needing to be hard all the time?

Are you used to “having it together” in your life, but your eating + weight is the little piece that’s not going right? Check out Katie’s free “What’s Your Eating Style” ebook — a beautiful, 22-page ebook that lets you identify your eating archetype, and offers detailed, personalized practices to try TODAY.

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

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