I was up to my elbows in peanut butter preparing lunch recently while my kids were watching a cartoon. Lost in my own thoughts, I was brought back to the moment when I overheard the main character of the cartoon say, “Exercise is just another word for play!” Brilliantly put. Incredible the things gleaned from a preschool cartoon!
I am often asked about how to teach both children and adults healthy exercise lifestyle. In my private practice I deal so often with the “reintroduction” of exercise to clients who deal with exercise addictions with or without a clinical diagnosis of an eating disorder.
The mindset of these clients is strict – calories in, exercise out. Their minds are fast-working calculators: If I eat X many calories, then I must exercise for X many minutes in order to avoid weight gain… This becomes a problem as the joy of movement is replaced by the anxiety of weight management. Exercise is not much fun when it becomes a stronghold or an idol in our lives, and this is most definitely not what God has in mind for His children.
When I am speaking to people about exercise, I always work first from the discussion of how God made our bodies as physical beings. Exercise is important for the body to function optimally. Part of honoring our bodies is fueling it properly and moving it properly.
The most important things to consider about exercise is that it is something you ENJOY doing and that you look FORWARD to doing every day. In other words, this is our PLAY!
We should take cues from our children. Have you ever sat in wonderment at the amount of energy children devote to play?
Exercise should not be something we dread. We should always factor in our God-given temperament/personality. Are you drawn to social exercise to connect with girlfriends or do you need to be recharged with solitude in solo runs or walks alone? Asking yourself these questions will help you find the exercise outlet that is right for you.
It’s also important to consider that exercise changes as our lifestyles change. For example, in my college years before I had children, I would enjoy training for half-marathons with girlfriends. After getting married and having kids, my exercise gradually evolved to solo daily walks as part of my quiet time with God. Other moms enjoy spinning classes or swimming as their “mommy-break.”
In my life currently, as I balance my private practice/writing/speaking schedules, I do not have the time to devote away from my little ones to fill my physical activity needs. For me, physical activity is playtime with my children.
When I brought my daughter home from the hospital to her active one-year old brother, my physical activity immediately became to keep up with him while my daughter was strapped tightly to my body. Now that I have running 2 and 3 year olds, my goal is to keep up with their every step when we go the park or play in the backyard. Although I regularly schedule play dates with other moms to visit, I also regularly schedule time alone to play alongside of my children. And the best part? They love it.
When I physically join my children in playtime I always make a point to share how blessed we are to have a body designed by God for us to move about and enjoy the world around us. I tell them that our fingers, arms, knees, legs, and feet are gifts from the Creator.
May this week bring many opportunities for you to purposely join your child for playtime. Share with them in the gift of movement and exercise because it truly is just another word for “play.”