joyful movement aisling Larkin

Joyful Movement

AKA what to do now if you have been conditioned to hate exercise. 

Have you learned to hate movement because of the experiences and emotions it created within you previously?

Exercise and movement have become framed within our lives as having a specific function; to lose weight, tone up, sculpt and shape our bodies or even as a penance for making bad food choices.

Exercise usually makes us think about burpees, planks and pushups and someone grunting at you, telling you to “push a little harder”, “don’t be weak”, “just keep going” and generally have a “its not working unless your suffering” kinda attitude. 

This combined with the growing trend of having some “PT sessions”, getting a fitness tracker from Santa and being surrounded by diet culture every god damn day makes it really difficult to appreciate movement for movement’s sake.

These previous exercise experiences have created powerful associations in the brain with FEELINGS like failure, embarrassment, not being good enough, anxiety, shame and distress. Over time these feelings have become directly linked to how we think about exercise and consequently how we behave in relation to movement… i.e. avoiding it at all costs.

Now I am going to pause here for a minute ….. if you were born with high kinaesthetic ability and you found achievement, confidence and self belief in playing sport you must be wondering what  are we talking about right now right? Movement brings people such joy but for so many other this is not the case.

We need to begin to reframe the concept of exercise as daily physical movements that nurture the body, the mind and the soul. We need to adopt a new mindset where joyful movement becomes a philosophy and a daily practice of moving  your body for the sake of moving it in a way that you enjoy. It’s about skipping the gruelling workout routine that you have to force yourself through, and listening to your body’s cues as to what actually feels good. 

Joyful movement is about pleasure over pain; it is about creating joy and happiness from the fresh air, from the connection to the music, getting sensory input from our joints and muscles that regulates, bathing in the post movement endorphins, feeling alive as we become aware of our heartbeat and even to savour to the social connection it brings. 

Here are some of my top tips to reconnect you with joyful movement :

  • Reframe the way you think about physical activity from “Ugh, I’d better exercise” to Great, time to do that fun activity I’ve planned for today!”.
  • Match your favourite forms of movement with your current level of fitness. Keep it joyful, do well, gain some confidence and self belief in your ability to move and build from here. 
  • Go back to childhood memories- what activities did you love doing as a kid that you can now try your hand at again. 
  • Listen to your body, tune into how you feel before, during, and after your joyful movement.  Does the activity that you’re participating in energise or deflate you? Does it help you decompress or cause anxiety?  Do you look forward to it or dread it? If the answer is the negative to these questions –  quit, move on and try something new.
  • Be flexible.  Let’s say you hope to fit in 30 minutes of activity into a day.  You can always complete this amount of joyful movement in increments – versus completing it all at once.  If you want to fit 30 minutes of activity into a day – but don’t reach that amount – don’t beat yourself up. Honour your well-being by resting your body.  
  • Remember … my wonderful mindful phrase “and thats ok” . If you didn’t get it in today, or plans changes ‘thats ok’ ! Here’s the thing, self-care should not feel like a bother.  If your heart isn’t in it, take a break and get back to joyful movement when the time feels right.  Again, you’re more likely to move your body more regularly when you enjoy it!  

Here are some suggestions for some joyful movement activities to get your started : 


joyful movement aisling Larkin

Frisbee in the garden 

Dance parties in the living room



joyful movement aisling Larkin

Reformer pilates 

Chasing the dog in the park

Walking  –  cliff walk, canal walk, forest walks


joyful movement aisling Larkin


Horse riding & treks 

joyful movement aisling Larkin

Cycling to the shops for the Sunday papers 

joyful movement aisling Larkin


Hula hooping 

joyful movement aisling Larkin

Having sex 


Running on the beach 

joyful movement aisling Larkin

Sea swimming 


joyful movement aisling Larkin

Paddle boarding 

House-work with your favourite podcast 

Driving range 

joyful movement aisling Larkin

And finally, remember it is not about becoming  an Olympic champion standard at of these things …. Let’s face it that ship has probably sailed … it is about having fun and enjoying the movement. 


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