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“What Does the Word ‘Exercise’ Conjure Up for You?”

“It’s finding ways to move your body that feel good, are enjoyable, and make you feel better, not worse, after doing it”


The girls learned that bodies come in all sizes and shapes, and to respect their body as-is.

“Welcome back everyone,” said Bracha as she opened the session.

“How are you all feeling?”

“Really good!” called Chaya. “I continued adding to my list of things I appreciate about myself, and I keep looking at it when I’m feeling insecure or low. It’s been really good for building my self-confidence!”

“That’s great, Chaya,” Bracha answered. “We all are so much more than our appearance, and we need to recognize and appreciate that. What else?”

Shoshana answered, “I’m still thinking about last session, when you said health isn’t reflected in body size, and it’s more important to take care of our body. It makes sense, but it’s such a new idea that I’m still not used to it.”

“That makes a lot of sense, Shoshana. When we’ve heard for so long that being thin is healthy regardless of how we get there, it will take time to be comfortable with the belief that bodies of all sizes can be healthy when given the proper care. We’ve spoken about different ways to care for our body. Today we’ll talk about movement.”

Leah groaned. “Ugh, I hate exercise!”

Bracha chuckled. “I hear that a lot from teens. That’s specifically why I didn’t say ‘exercise,’ but rather ‘movement.’ ”

“C’mon, that’s just semantics, it’s the same thing,” Leah answered.

“Not really,” Bracha countered. “Let’s dig deeper. What does the word ‘exercise’ conjure up for you?”

“Gym class.”

“An aching body.”

“Reaching a certain number on my tracker.”

“Just… ugh.”

“Okay,” Bracha continued. “Now think for a minute, what is movement?”

“Well, if it’s not the same as exercise, I guess, it’s just moving,” Chaya said.

“Yes!” Bracha agreed. “It’s finding ways to move your body that feel good, are enjoyable, and make you feel better, not worse, after doing it.”

“I dance in my room as a study break. Is that what you’re talking about?” Chaya offered.


“I take my nephew to the park and play on equipment with him. That’s fun,” Shoshana answered.

Leah added, “I like walking at night with my mother because we just schmooze without anyone interrupting us. But only if it’s good weather. When it’s not nice we’ll do something else like baking or drinking tea.”

“Those are all great examples of movement. They each have you moving in ways that have multiple benefits. Dancing sounds like it relieves your stress and clears your mind when studying. Playing in the park and walking allow you to connect with other people and benefit from being outdoors.”

Bracha continued, “And I love that you specified walking only in good weather, Leah. We want to be careful not to make movement something that adds more stress into our lives — just keep it enjoyable.”

“Wait, didn’t you just say movement lessens stress?” asked Shoshana.

“Yes,” answered Bracha, “movement can lessen stress and improve mood. However, it can also increase stress when it becomes rule-based, obsessive, and gets in the way of living your life. Think of some of the activities you do and answer these questions to see if your relationship with movement is beneficial or harmful.”

Does this movement feel good?

Do I feel angry or resentful doing this activity?

Am I overtired, injured, or sick?

Does this activity give me joy?

Does it fit into my day without stress?

“Based on how you all negatively described what exercise means to you, I bet I know your answers to these questions.”

“But, so what?” asked Shoshana. “We have to exercise if we want to be healthy, all the doctors say so!”

“Good point,” Bracha answered, “and this goes back to your comment at the start of the session. If we can be active without the end-goal of changing our body size or shape, do you think your activity would look different? Would you need to run despite an injury, or stay up late walking to meet your step count, or could you rather enjoy playing in the park with your nephew? That also raises your heart rate, helps with bone strength, and improves respiration. We don’t have to ‘work out’ to get the health benefits of movement. Try finding ways to move your body that feel good and rejuvenate you, rather than exhaust or deplete you.”

Until next time…


Bracha Kopstick is a registered dietitian offering virtual nutrition counseling, specializing in helping children and teens develop a good relationship with food and their body. She can be contacted through Teen Pages for more information about joining your own Intuitive Eating Workshop.


(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 870)

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