What counts as exercise?

Last week, Sheila was weeding in her garden when I left for the gym.

“I’m off to do the work that doesn’t benefit anyone but me,” I shouted as I got in the car.

We laughed but….it’s kind of true.

Don’t get me wrong - from a mental health standpoint, everyone is much happier when I get in my workout. Exercise puts me in a better mood, which is good for me and anyone around me. 

Sheila on the other hand, isn’t really much for the gym. 

As in, she kind of hates the gym. 

On the other hand, her garden has produced 12 feet high sunflowers (not exaggerating) and at least three pumpkins that are twice the size of my head. Along with various other flowers, more zucchini than we know what to do with, and enough cherry tomatoes to feed a small army. 

She’s been busting her tail building her garden since March. And while she doesn’t necessarily “work out,” I’d argue that she gets in as much exercise as I do with my workouts in a given week.

People often struggle to build an exercise routine that sticks for a litany of reasons. Sometimes, it’s because they think that they have to peel themselves off of the floor after a workout in order for it to count. 

Sure you can do that for a few weeks, but I’ll be the first to tell you that even as someone who enjoys exercise, I don’t look forward to doing that kind of routine very often. 

But what if you start to think of exercise and movement a little differently?

The past few weeks, I’ve been listening to the book “No Sweat” by Michelle Segar and she writes at great length about the way we perceive exercise. 

Her main point of the book? 

That humans are hard-wired to choose immediate gratification over delayed benefits. Which means we’re only going to exercise if it makes us happy right now. 

So for many people that means choosing movement activities that give us some benefit right now. For Sheila, working in her garden gives her immediate benefits. And while she’s gardening, she’s doing plenty of squats, deadlifts, and farmer’s carries. She is doing plenty of activity that carries over to have physical benefits.

For me, I get the instant reward of an endorphin release when I do a workout. The immediate benefit for me? I feel better. 

If you're trying to figure out what type of exercise program might work best for you, start with the kind of movement you enjoy. Walking your dog. Working in your garden. Playing on the floor with your grandkids. 

Start with movement you enjoy and see where it takes you.  

Be kind to yourself.