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  • Dr. Alex Swenson-Ridley

The Distinction Between Exercise and Movement and Why it Matters to You


While exercise is certainly a form of movement, and a necessary part of being healthy, movement does not only mean exercise. It definitely does not mean needing several

hours a day to devote to being in the gym. If going to the gym everyday is something that helps fill your cup and rejuvenates you, fantastic, there’s nothing wrong with that.


But I’ve found more often than not that committing to a regular gym routine in our busy lives can be challenging and unsustainable for many, producing more stress and poor results rather than any real benefits. In this chapter we will focus on alternatives to the traditional “go to the gym and do cardio” mentality that has been ingrained in our society for many years.


Let’s start by defining movement as self a form of self care. What does self care mean? In my simplest definition, self care is doing the things that allow you to fill your cup and rejuvenate your energy. In other words, it is the movement of breath, body and mind that rejuvenates your being and soul. Why are we talking about self care in a conversation about movement, which most might equate to exercise? Because the movement we engage in on a daily basis should be geared at providing self care, not washboard abs and a bikini figure. It’s always possible to kill two birds with one stone so to speak, but we want to

reframe our definition of movement within the context of self care.


What we "should" do versus what we "need" to do

There’s a great TedX Talk by Dr. Libby Weaver, a nutritional biochemist from New Zealand that has radically altered my approach to exercise and movement, along with many other women with whom I have shared it. In her talk on The Pace of Modern Life versus Our Cavewoman Biochemistry, Dr. Weaver quickly dismantles a common belief that we tend to hold: large amounts of cardio is the key to weight loss and better health. In an excerpt from her talk, in which she compares the cavewoman to the modern day high stress juggling woman, Dr. Libby states:


“...when cavewoman ran, she ran to escape from danger or maybe to pursue her next meal. But juggling woman: she runs with her conscious mind knowing that it’s in the pursuit of fitness, but her subconscious mind, the part of her body that she can’t instruct with her own thoughts, the part of her body that she can’t communicate with, it’s the part of your body that governs how quickly your heart beats, how quickly your hair grows, how quickly your

fingernails grow [thinks differently]... juggling woman — when she runs, she has cavewoman technology, so she is asking her body to create a different meaning for the first

time ever in the entirety of human evolution that she’s okay, that she’s running for fitness. Her conscious mind knows it but her subconscious mind creates the meaning that it’s always created [that she is in danger and trying to escape a predator].”


Dr. Weaver goes on to explain that this attempt to “trick” the subconscious mind into somehow thinking running or cardio is good for us just doesn’t work. What we

think and what our body intuitively knows and how it reacts based on how we were wired years ago are two very different things. Regardless of where you fall in your belief system of evolution versus creation, the physiological reactions of the body that occur without our conscious thought cannot be ignored.


So what does this mean for you die hard runners and cardio doers out there? Well, it’s time to take stock of where you’re at in terms of stress and life in general, and consider how your body physiologically responds to what you do for movement.


Because of the subconscious response our body’s have programmed to trigger when we run, the same sympathetic response that raises heart rate, blood pressure, shuts down digestion and increases cortisol production is triggered by this activity. If you already have a high level of stress, or have been living in a high stress state for years, going out for a run actually has the opposite effect of being a stress relief. Instead, it increases your stress response and further depletes your body of energy and normal function

by tanking your sex hormones, sleep cycle and many other normal processes in the body.


When your body is reacting to high levels of negative stress for a long period of time (and this is stress that feels against your will, out of your control or leaving you feeling utterly devoid of meaning) several things are reacting that can lead to a host of problems triggered by hormones in the stress response.


This is the biggest argument for where we’re heading in this discussion of movement as a means of renewing your energy and finding the motivation to do it. What if we took out the psychological patterning that says you need at least an hour of time and to be doing lots of cardio to be fit and lose weight? For me, this perspective shift has brought a whole new level to how I work out. And the motivation piece? It’s not so hard to find when I’m not trying to psych myself up to go for a run or kick my own bum in a 45 minute HIIT workout. This is not to say that exercise in its truest form, things that are raising your heart rate, getting your blood pumping and building muscle aren’t necessary. They absolutely are still a key part of improving your health, increasing your energy and for women, making sure we maintain healthy strong bones throughout our lives. However, what we’re focused on here is implementing the things your body needs to rebalance and heal, so that those types of workouts don’t leave you depleted, sore and more of a stressed hormonal mess than when you started.


Interested in learning more on this topic? There are a couple of ways you can dive deeper into learning about this:


1. My book, The Rejuvenated Mama: How to Renew Your Energy, Reignite Your Motivation and Reconnect to Yourself contains the full step by step process for healing and implementing sustainable change in all six areas. It can be found as an ebook on our website or through Amazon in paperback and kindle options.

2. Join me for one of my upcoming live talks or online masterclasses. Please call or email us to find one that works best for your schedule.

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