Exercise is an effective coping method for stress, anxiety and depression, and healthy exercisers harness these powers for good. Some of us need an extra push to get off the couch, or some reining in once in a while. For others, finding the balance between too much and too little physical activity comes easily. Below are a few things these people do differently.
People with a healthy relationship to exercise know the difference between a good burn and true pain. "You hear so much about the whole 'no pain, no gain' attitude," says Cohn. "I think we really have to redefine what pain is." Yes, you want to feel like you worked hard, you want some fatigue, you might even relish your second-day soreness. But feeling discomfort in joints, or feeling so exhausted you just want to drop at the end of the day is not normal, says Cohn. Pain can be serious, and pushing through could cause worse injury. People with a healthy relationship to exercise know when to say when.
They take rest days. And when they are in pain or are exhausted, they know it's time to skip a sweat session. "It's the same as that chocolate cake," says Cohn. "It's delicious, you want to have another piece, but you know it's not good for you, and you need to stop eating now." No matter how much you love working out, there is such a thing as too much exercise, and the people with the healthiest relationships to exercise enjoy their off days. Carter recommends taking at least one a week.
They don't exercise to eat, they eat to exercise. Exercising purely to "influence weight or shape", says Carter, can be a slippery slope into obsession and disorder. For a healthy athlete or exerciser, food is fuel, not the enemy. Our bodies require a bare minimum amount of calories simply to survive, and we need to provide extra energy for physical activity. Rather than exercising "to allow themselves to eat," says Carter, people with a healthy relationship to exercise eat to allow themselves to exercise. Eating whatever you want just because you exercised today doesn't cut it either, even if you just want to maintain weight, she says. Of course we'd never say the occasional brownie was completely off limits, but "'occasional' doesn't mean every dinner warrants a dessert!" Carter says.
They can go with the flow. Many experts recommend scheduling exercise into your day like you would any other appointment to help you stick with your fitness plan. But there also needs to be some flexibility in the scheduling. Even walking just a few more steps a day -- whether it’s by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or commuting by foot -- is still physical, and can help ease anxiety over skipping a sweat session.
They Mix things up. "Doing the elliptical every day at the same intensity level is just a repetitive motion," says Cohn, not one you're going to see huge results from. People with the healthiest relationships to exercise balance their workout routines with a mixture of activities, whether that's high and low impact, cardio and strength training, or arm days and leg days, she says. And it doesn't require pricey sessions with a personal trainer or a degree in exercise science to add a little more balance to your regular routine, she says. Simply reading the directions on a machine at the gym you've never tried before, for example, can be surprisingly helpful, she says.
This article was originally written by Sarah Klein. We shared this with you because we want to help you balance life and fitness.