Gentle Reminder: Make Movement Joyful Again


I can practically feel the groaning and eye rolling.

In preparation for writing this blog post I did a bit of research. I googled some exercise slogans. What I found ranged from the ridiculous – “squat till you puke” (eww) – to the downright offensive, which I won’t repeat here (guys, seriously?).

Many of the so-called “motivational and inspirational” quotes I found conveyed the message that to have the body you’re “supposed” to have, you must punish it into submission.

No wonder the ‘e’ word has such a bad rep.

Forcing ourselves to do exercise we don’t enjoy doesn’t work. Just as we don’t like people telling us what to eat – which is one of the reasons diets don’t work – we also don’t like people telling us how to move. The desire to move and the method to do it have to come from within us, or we give up.

Lapsed gym memberships, abandoned fitness DVD’s, dormant exercise equipment – these aren’t evidence of failure or lack of willpower. They’re casualties in the struggle for autonomy.

I love the phrase “joyful movement” that’s increasing in popularity. Movement should be joyful, like it was when we were kids – when we didn’t care what we looked like or what people thought. When we just ran around and got out of breath, and laughed for the sheer joy of movement.

Perhaps when it comes to our bodies and exercise, we could replace thoughts of punishment, pain, exhaustion, abuse and, er…puke (nope, still can’t see how that’s “inspirational”), with ideas like connection, gratitude, harmony, fun and autonomy.

I think one of the saddest slogans I came across was “When my body shouts ‘stop!’ my mind screams ‘never!’”.

How about “when my body shouts ‘stop!’, I listen, say thank you and ask ‘what would you like to do now?’”

Not as punchy, perhaps, but definitely more respectful (and probably involves a lot less puke).

©️ Julie de Rohan 2019.


For more on joyful movement, click here to read “What’s the Big Deal about Exercise?”

33 thoughts on “Gentle Reminder: Make Movement Joyful Again

  1. This is a lovely reminder, Julie, of how joy and exercise do not have to be mutually exclusive! I grew up in the era of ‘no pain, no gain’ – what a travesty. Great post, Lxx

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    1. Ah yes, ‘no pain, no gain ‘ and ‘feel the burn’. There’s nothing wrong with exertion but not to the point of punishment. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lol. How is life now you’re not blogging?

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  2. Diet and Exercise have to be two of the least favorite words in my vocabulary! It took me over 50 years to realize that diets don’t work and that balance is key. The same with exercise, although I do still struggle with this one. Having chronic pain and exercising regularly is a tough combo to figure out. I think I could really add Joyful Movement into my lexicon. The words alone make me smile and WANT to move. I think you’re onto something! I’m replacing exercise in my life with joyful movement. I’ll make a bet with you that I move more! Thanks Julie!

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    1. Yay! That sounds great, Jayne, and of course – movement and managing chronic pain must be a tricky process. I think exercise (like diet) is such a loaded word nowadays, whereas joyful movement really hits the nail on the head. Movement for me is mainly an excuse to listen to music I love very loudly, while I get my heart pumping and work up a bit of a sweat – punishment has nothing to do with it. I look forward to hearing more about how you’re managing to integrate joyful movement into your life, many thanks for your comment.

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      1. Julie, this is going to sound trite but I am dead serious. Just thinking that I need some Joyful Movement instead of needing to Exercise has made a difference for me. I too like my music loud when moving. I like to plug in my earphones and purposefully walk along to upbeat music that makes me want to move! Joyfully! 😉 Almost everything boils down to attitude, right? Joyful Movement is a terrific aphorism for an attitude adjustment toward exercise. (Why didn’t I know you 30 years ago?!?)

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      2. Better late than never, Jayne (and, also, I wasn’t doing this 30 years ago!). You’re absolutely right that it all boils down to attitude – when we do anything it’s worth checking where it’s coming from within us. Is it in tune with our desires and coming from a place of caring, or is it something we think we “should” do and we’re attempting to bully ourselves into it? I’m absolutely chuffed to bits that Joyful Movement has made such a difference to you – it obviously connected to something within you and, personally, I feel every activity is enhanced with music. Thanks so much for giving us your update – it’s so great to hear your experience.


  3. “Joyful movement” is definitely so much better. I think exercise does veer towards being about both competitiveness (with yourself, your peers & societal pressures) and body image, which is always a distorted view of what you ‘should’ look like.. I’m pretty sure a six-pack, big boobs, but underweight everywhere else is not quite natural! It really does suck the fun out of it and it becomes dangerous. Putting the focus on doing our bodies good with balanced amounts of exercise or stretches, and doing exercises that you enjoy is so much healthier for our bodies & mental health. Another fantastic post, Julie xx

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    1. That made me laugh – “a six-pack, big boobs, but underweight everywhere else” – think you’re right that’s not entirely natural! You’re so right about exercise often being about competitiveness in terms of body image, rather than as a way to look after ourselves physically and emotionally. Great to hear your take on this post, Caz, many thanks.

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  4. squat until you puke? Like seriously 🙄 certainly no inspiration here! And the last slogan “When my body shouts ‘stop!’ my mind screams ‘never!’”. are you sure these are not the Marines or the army slogans? 😂 oh damn it’s torture!

    I always hated exercises, I always preferred sitting alone, writing songs, dreaming…I can sit all day long! I was always thin and while growing up with few curves but only 2 years ago I found out that exercise is important and started to exercise alone because I hate Gyms actually or maybe I hate people I don’t know 😁 first it was hard then a bit enjoyable just because I loved the result that’s it…not the process! And some days I don’t feel like doing it at all, but still I can’t feel this pure joy, I still prefer to sit and blog like now, I skipped the exercise also today for 2 weeks in a row, I don’t miss it but I just feel bad because I know it’s good! So it’s kind hard to know if I really love it or I love to look good
    Thank you for this subject, I enjoyed reading and hope one day I’ll enjoy exercising as well 😊

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    1. Honestly, they’re exercise slogans and – seriously – those weren’t the worst. Sounds like there’s some confusion for you around exercise and your motivation for doing it. Like you, though, exercise for me is a solitary thing, I like the time alone just to switch off but I know others prefer to make it a sociable pursuit, it just depends on your preference. I like doing it just because it’s fun and it makes me feel balanced, that’s all. So good to hear your thoughts, Huguette, many thanks for your comment.

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      1. Yes I’m certainly confused 😐
        Hope I will reach this “fun” and balanced point 😊
        It’s always a great pleasure reading your content 👍 have a great evening 😊

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  5. I absolutely agree! Exercise done properly makes us feel good. Why in the world would we want to push ourselves into a painful area that we’re always going to try to avoid in the future? True exercise is good for us, both mentally and physically.

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  6. Great post, Julie. I’m sharing this. Dance, walks through beautiful places, martial arts and yoga are enjoyable forms of exercise for me.

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  7. Motivation strain, i believe is another sign that you may have an underlying health condition..

    Thoughts take less effort, than thoughts in which we actually turn into motion.. 😁👍🙏💙

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  8. As an individual doing a regular workout, I totally agree with you Julie. It is not about working against your body, rather, working WITH your body. Our body is our mind, therefore, one is dependent with each other. One should be aligned with each other.

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    1. Exactly – working with ourselves is so much better than working against ourselves – it means we get to enjoy moving our bodies. Great to hear your thoughts Aj, many thanks for your comment.

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