Node Smith, ND

Let’s Stop Using the Word “Exercise”

The word “exercise,” for most people, is associated with a structured regimen, plan, or program that involves a certain level of skill, knowledge or training. This idea places a huge obstacle in front of individuals who have not been “trained” in any specific type of “exercise.” This obstacle is further complicated by individual inclination to learn something new, feeling foolish for having beginner experience at an older age, or embarrassment of not knowing what to do among a group who seemingly does.

“Exercise” Offers Obstacle Resulting in Lethargy

It’s not necessarily this obstacle that directly results in inactivity, but rather the defeat, shame and guilt that settles in around the idea of “exercise” being something that should be performed. Because there’s an idea that exercise needs training, there’s also the corollary idea that it can be done wrong. This creates a huge conflict between being told that something is healthy, and wanting to do good things for oneself, and simultaneously not knowing how to do it and being scared to do it wrong. The end result is guilt for not doing it, and in order to soothe this guilt, many of us find ourselves saying “F*** it, I don’t like to exercise, so why would I do it?”

There’s a Simple Soution to this Word-Problem

There is a cure to this problem, and it’s very simple. Stop associating activity with “exercise.” As part of being human, we have the innate sense that movement and activity is good for us, that we want to move around and get our “blood flowing.” This is an act of kindness that we perform in many ways throughout the day, AND could do more of. But its hard when the idea that the only way to get healthy is to “exercise.”

Recent Study Supports Sporadic Bouts of Low Intensity Physical Activity

A recent study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine supports this concept by concluding that even low intensity physical activity in sporadic bouts throughout the week showed reductions in death rates in individuals between 40-59. Low intensity activity, like walking, stretching, cleaning the house, walking up a few flights of stairs and walking around the block a few times during lunch hours.

New Perspectives on the Same Old Paradigm

The idea that we have to go to a gym, join a yoga class, learn some new program in order to have healthy movement and activity is simply not true. The important idea to note is that we move in a healthy way, and preferably often, that we enjoy the type of movement that we participate in, like dancing, walking, gardening, horseback riding, or dog training. Physical activity is what is healthy – not exercise, per se. Moving the body in a way that brings poise, relaxation, and comfort into the body upon completion is what is healthy. We all have a yearning to do this, it is the kindness of inner Self that directs this inclination. Let’s follow it, even when we “HATE TO EXERCISE.”

Study on Low-Intensity Activity

Photo by Justyn Warner on Unsplash


Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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