Well-Being//

Unexpected Benefits of Movement and Exercise That We Love

Pausing to appreciate the unexpected effects of exercise can help motivate us on days we feel uninspired or lethargic.

Yaroslav Astakhov/ Shutterstock
Yaroslav Astakhov/ Shutterstock

Whether you opt for a sunrise yoga class or an impromptu dance party before dinner, making time for movement provides us with many rewards — some expected, and some surprising. Pausing to appreciate the unexpected ripple effects of movement can help motivate us on days we feel uninspired or lethargic. 

We asked our Thrive community to share with us the surprising rewards they’ve experienced from moving their bodies more. Which of these benefits do you love?

It allows us to clear our minds

“I try to take a daily morning walk, either around my neighborhood or near my office as a recommendation from my therapist. In the six months that I’ve done this, I’ve found not only a shocking amount of clarity but motivation to tackle the rest of the day. Moving my body gives me the space to think about challenges differently.”

—Sentari Minor, strategist and social impact advocate, Phoenix, AZ

It gives us a burst of energy

“I’m surprised by how quickly my energy level increases whenever I move my body. Suddenly, tasks I don’t enjoy, like cleaning, get done.” 

—Kristin Meekhof, author, therapist, life coach, Royal Oak, MI

It improves our creativity 

“One of the most surprising benefits of movement for me has been the ways that it increases my creativity. Without fail, anytime I move — whether it’s walking, dancing, or riding a bike — I am flooded with inspiration and ideas.”

—Becky M., coach, Ashburn, VA

It helps us silence negative thoughts 

“Moving my body helps me silence negative thoughts. Some estimates say we have up to 60,000 thoughts a day, and 80 percent of them are negative. We often fail to recognize that exercise is a great way to create space between your thoughts and bring balance into your life. I find that when I put on a good playlist, get my body moving, and raise my heartbeat, the worries of the past and fears of the future begin to fade as my consciousness focuses on the present moment. Movement of the body comes in many forms, and exercise does not have to live in the gym.”

—James Petrossi, president of PTNL, Austin, TX

It creates community

“I’ve grown to appreciate how being in motion invites motion. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been managing our neighborhood community garden. When people driving by see me out there weeding, shoveling, and tending, they stop the car to come over and check it out. They walk by and ask to come inside the garden gate and walk around. This year, for the first time in about 15 years, all garden beds are rented.”

—Donna Peters, MBA faculty and executive coach, Atlanta, GA

It helps us stay resilient

“My personal obsession with fitness started six years ago, and I can’t rave enough about the benefits of moving my body when it comes to managing my anxiety. Movement has become a part of my coping mechanism and a part of my self-care ritual. To me, resilience is a daily practice and that is what fitness and movement does for me. It activates resilience in body, mind, and soul.”

—Karisa Karmali, certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, Ontario, Canada

It sets us up for our day ahead

“Movement has been a big part of my daily routine ever since I had a pretty spectacular burnout in the world of banking 10 years ago. Moving each morning, with a run along Hong Kong’s green hiking trails or stretching out my body with a flow yoga class, is a way to reconnect mind and body and center myself before entering the fray of another day in the corporate world. Even better, having adherence buddies for each activity that energize me means I’m motivated even on the days when it’s tempting to roll over and doze.”

Liz Bradford, chief of staff, Hong Kong

It helps us realize how capable we are

“I got hooked on walking years ago. It all started with listening to audiobooks. I kept wanting to hear the next chapter and soon found that I was walking three to four hours without giving it a second thought. I was over 40 years old before discovering that I had a Maasai-like ability to walk long distances. Today, I have a hard time not walking at least three miles or so every day. This regular practice had given me endurance and stamina I never had when I was in my 20s, which gives me the confidence that I will age in good health in mind, body, and spirit.”

— Maria Baltazzi, travel designer and mentor, Los Angeles, CA 

It keeps us mindful

“I love the meditative quality of movement. For me, time on my yoga mat is time spent with my body, completely focused on how it feels, how it moves and finding smoother, more nourishing ways of moving it. When your mind is completely immersed in the sensations in your body, there’s little space for worries, anxieties, or even mundane thoughts to whirl around in your head. To know that I have this body to pour my attention into whenever I want to divert from or interrupt a flow of corrosive or unproductive thoughts is priceless. It can take a while for that focus to become natural. We bring our attention to the body on the yoga mat where it’s easier so that when we’re in a more difficult situation we can put our practice into action.”

—Felicity Pryke, yoga teacher, Lancashire, U.K.

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