What is Joyful Movement
and How Can You Cultivate This In Your Life?

Joyful movement is a way of moving that honors what your body is needing that day. It is flexible and sustainable. It is an enhancement to your life rather than another to-do on the ever-growing list that momma has to manage.

By Christy Maloney, RD, LDN, CEDS-S, CPT (and busy momma!)

Exercise. If you were like me, you probably grew up watching your mom trying to lose weight. After all, as an 80s baby, we were in the era of new fad diets and Jazzercise.

 

You likely witnessed exercise being solely about weight loss and aesthetics. Exercise, as we learned, was not something that was fun but something that was a chore. A must-do. Another thing to check off the list of things that needed to get done daily. And when that weight goal was reached, or mom just got tired of chasing an aesthetic, the exercise probably stopped. After all, it was just another tool in the arsenal to work toward the societal expectation of what a woman “should” look like.

 

Fast forward 35-40 years. We are still living under the weight of what diet culture tells us is acceptable for a woman’s appearance. We still have to fight the overarching weight loss messaging daily.

 

But, things are changing. Slowly. But they’re changing. And because we are witnessing this change, examining our own relationship with exercise is something we need to do too.

Movement is moving. Simply moving. Moving your body in ways you enjoy. Ways that are sustainable. Ways in which you derive pleasure and happiness. It's not forced. It's not hitting the gym "five days a week or else."

- Christy Maloney

Where does movement fit into this? And why do I call it movement versus exercise?

Exercise has historically been viewed as more militant. Rigid. A “keep going at all costs” mentality that does not often take into account illness or injury.

 

Movement is moving. Simply moving. Moving your body in ways you enjoy. Ways that are sustainable. Ways in which you derive pleasure and happiness. It’s not forced. It’s not hitting the gym “five days a week or else.”

 

Joyful movement is a concept coined by Evelyn Tribole, RD and Elyse Resch, RD in the popular book Intuitive Eating. By definition, joyful movement is a way of moving that honors what your body is needing on that day. It is flexible and sustainable. It is an enhancement to your life rather than another to-do on the ever-growing list that momma has to manage.

 

It sounds way more fun to get up and sense what my body needs on any given day than having to do something that I might not be feeling. It can help you continue to move more consistently throughout life rather than feeling like exercise “isn’t working” because you didn’t achieve a certain aesthetic or number on the scale.

 

Benefits of movement are widely studied. We know that movement helps mental health, including depression and anxiety. We know that movement helps overall energy levels improve. We know that movement helps sleep. We know that movement helps improve cardiovascular function and strength. Those things are way better long term motivators than weighing a certain number or having a six-pack (which is fleeting day to day anyway.)

So, how do we do this joyful movement thing?

  1. Find things that you enjoy. This is different from person to person and can range anywhere from gardening to walking to yoga to strength training to running a marathon. You might try some new group exercise classes, find a mom’s group to run with for a social component of movement, or even go to the neighborhood pool and swim while the kiddos are at summer camp. Each person gets to define this for themselves. And it can change daily, weekly, yearly, and over the course of your life.
  2. Think about what you enjoyed as a child. That is such a great way to connect to your inner child and remember a time that movement was fun. Did you swim and play games with your friends? Maybe you introduce those same games to your kids. Did you ride your bike for hours? Maybe you dig out the Huffy and take it for a spin. Did you play tag? You know the kids would love this. Think about PLAY and how you want to reintroduce that.
  3. You can use movement to slow down as well. Would an evening yoga practice help you sleep? Would a lunchtime routine of a few restorative yoga poses feel good for your body and rest your brain? Pull out that yoga mat and get in some child’s pose.
  4. Movement does not have to be an intentional amount of time carved out daily. It can be an impromptu walk with the family after dinner. It can be deciding that you’re going to plant those spring flowers and mulch the flower beds. You can surprise your kids with a playdate at the park and climb on the equipment with them (or take a walk with that mom friend you’re meeting up with!)
  5. Keep a movement journal at first. Write down what you did and how you felt about it. Did it feel good to your body? Did it make you happy? Did it give you energy? Does it feel like something you’d still want to be doing in a year? Was there an aspect of play and fun to it? That way it can help you really hone in on what you like (versus what we are told we *should* do. Don’t “should” yourself.)

 

Joyful movement is a movement practice that creates mental and physical health benefits while feeling fun, playful, flexible, and sustainable. What kind of movement do you want to try next?

Christy Maloney is a Registered Dietitian specializing in helping those with eating disorders and disordered eating in Charlotte, NC. Christy has been an RD since 2011. Initially, Christy worked in the clinical setting at two hospital systems in South Carolina. It was here that she initially began working with eating disorders. After two years in clinical practice, Christy worked for three and a half years at the Renfrew Center of Charlotte, NC. There she developed her passion for eating disorders, honed her skills in treatment of eating disorders, and began to develop her career in this field. Following the Renfrew Center, Christy began working as a contractor in private practice with a local company treating eating disorders and disordered eating. In January, 2019, she opened her own practice in Charlotte, NC, Enhance Nutrition Associates, devoted solely to the treatment of eating disorders at an outpatient level.

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