Yes, there is a difference.
I like to think of exercise as a very small box the fitness and wellness industry convince us we need to cram ourselves into. On paper exercise is an activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness but in practice exercise might as well be defined as a rigid set of activities, carried out in a specific way to achieve an arbitrary, yet pervasive idea of health and fitness. In this way, the fitness and wellness industry has co-opted our self esteem for profit and we are buying it because that idea of health and fitness is really an idea about who is deserving of happiness, fulfillment and love.
And I think it is safe to say we all want happiness, fulfillment and love; yet the idea of exercise makes these constructs obtainable only to a specific type of person and a specific set of actions. This limits us to a specific way of being, keeping us in a cycle of picking ourselves apart and whittling ourselves away. We must work to fit into that very small box and one day that happiness will be ours.
Happiness is not found, though. It is created and cultivated. The box will always be too small. Always. So, instead, we must get rid of the box. To do this, we need to redefine exercise to something expansive, connected, fulfilling, nurturing, and joy filled. Something without the connotation of contorting ourselves to societal standards. Something abundant — more akin to music. Movement.
Movement is Music
Movement is defined as the act or process of moving. This concept is different from that of what we think of as exercise which is outcome oriented because it doesn’t emphasize what you will supposedly achieve tomorrow, rather it emphasizes what you are achieving now. Process inherently speaks to small steps forward. Process contains the existence of now. In this way, movement allows us the ability to meet ourselves where we are at, with the understanding that each day builds upon the previous. We can be consistent but we can also be intuitive all with the understanding that each day is its own unfolding. The process of movement, versus the outcome of exercise enables us to create happiness, fulfillment and love simply by moving how we want to and calling that enough.
Movement unlike exercise in its rigid sense is something we were made to do. We are human. We are animals. As such movement is inherent to our being, even as our lives become more sedentary. I would wager a bet that if you were to tune into your body and ask it what it needs, it might offer up a few suggestions on how it innately wants to move. The idea of exercise says there are legitimate ways to be active and healthy (and only these legitimate ways of exercise will make you happy). Movement, on the other hand, is innate to human beings and offers a more open ended intuitive idea of activity. This encompasses traditional forms of exercise, but it can also be a walk, a breath or even a stretch. Movement can be more rest than challenge or more challenge than rest depending on how you are feeling. Movement can be done with all parts of the body or some parts of the body. In a fat body or in a thin body. Movement is a connection to your body and how it desires to move, how it was made to move, and how it needs to move. In this way, where exercise is constraining, movement is expansive.
Movement is Expansive
Defining something as movement instead of exercise, enables a way of relating to ourselves that naturally cultivates happiness, fulfillment and love. In this way movement is:
Movement is something all humans do, not something that is relegated to predominantly white, able bodied thin men and women.
Movement is based on your process and that process shifts from day to day. The more you listen to yourself and how you are feeling day to day, the more you can understand what forms of activity are enjoyable and their effects on your body, mind and spirit.
Energizing AND Restful
Once you let go of the constraints of exercise, movement can be something slow and calming as much as it can be something quick and intense. Movement is like music, the cadence and composition depend on your mood.
Movement is inherent to being a human being. As such, when you do it from a place of listening to yourself, rather than to external standards imposed upon you, it comes from a place of connection and nourishment. This is how you cultivate the conditions for love, by listening to inner being.
Movement is about listening. Listening enables connection. Connection enables you to understand yourself and choose activities that bring you happiness and fulfillment in the present.
Easy AND Hard
Movement connects you to what your body needs. Maybe it wants to do something challenging today. Maybe it doesn’t. It is your process.
Movement is not about the outcome. It is about the process. This can shift and look different no matter what season of life you are in. Movement also is about listening. We were born to move in some capacity, once you start listening to that desire, it probably won’t go away.
Movement has no Box
Movement cannot be contained to the small box because it asks us to move from boundlessness of our own being. Where exercise stifles with external expectations, movement comes from an internal, innate space of listening. It is the process by which we learn to be with ourselves and our bodies and see this connection as enough in and of itself.
Exercise I think that you can still have traditional “exercise” goals but live your life under the ideology of movement. You can train for a marathon or desire to lose weight, but I think you need to ask yourself in what ways are you approaching these goals, or any goals, from a point of constriction? Where have you closed yourself off by stuffing yourself into the small box of exercise and what activity, health have to be? There is no have to be when it comes to movement. There is only connection and process. This is the music that cannot be contained. This where we can cultivate happiness and fulfillment and love by getting to know ourselves, discarding our external expectation of exercise for a more internal understanding. Movement creates the happiness, fulfillment and love, we seek for so long through exercise. Movement is the box open wide. Movement is no box at all.