Thu. Jun 20th, 2024

Fitness isn’t about what you can lose. It’s about what you can gain.

Six weeks after the birth of my second child, I had a moment of reckoning that forever changed what I appreciate about exercise.

I sat in my OB-GYN’s waiting room, staring at the fluorescent green intake form on the clipboard in my lap. I tried to read the page through teary eyes as my baby slept quietly in her car seat next to me.

Do you often feel anxious, angry, or sad for no good reason?

Are you able to look forward to tomorrow?

Have you ever had thoughts of harm coming to yourself or your baby?

My first instinct was to lie. But behind the constant clamoring of anxious thoughts, I heard a small, quiet voice in my head: Be honest, it said.

Until that moment, I was unable to admit what I knew in my heart to be true: I was struggling with postpartum depression.

They called my name, and I walked into the clinic. When my doctor walked into the room, she asked, “So how are you doing?”

Before I could respond, the floodgates burst. The sea of anxiety that had swallowed me for weeks flooded the room, and I sobbed uncontrollably.

My doctor looked me in the eye and calmly leveled with me. She said, “I think you may have postpartum depression. How do you feel about beginning some medication?”

I knew I needed to seek treatment, but I wanted to start with my tried-and-true saving grace: movement.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Postpartum depression is a very serious diagnosis, and in some cases, medication is the best course of treatment, hands down. I knew that. But I also knew physical activity could only help jump-start my recovery.

I hadn’t yet been given medical approval to resume exercise, and as a Pilates instructor, dancer, and outdoor adventurer, movement had always been my preferred form of stress relief. Getting cleared to exercise was key to my mental health. For the first time, I realized it wasn’t just my body that was craving movement; it was my brain, too.

I answered her, “What about exercise? Can I move yet? Can I hike, run, anything?”

My doctor took out her prescription pad and started writing. “Exercise, 30 minutes every day,” she wrote. She ripped the script off the pad and handed it to me.

“Let’s try it,” she said. “But I’m going to call you to check in. If it’s not enough, we’ll try the medication.”

The next day, I laced up my hiking boots, put the dog on a leash, strapped my baby into a carrier, and headed out into the freshly fallen snow for a hike. Every step felt therapeutic. Finally, I was moving my body again, breathing fresh air. The rogue thoughts that rattled in my brain started falling in line with the rhythm of my steps.

With each and every step, my mind quieted, focusing more on the way my body felt in that present moment than on the fear that kept me awake at night. My body was still healing, and I moved slowly, intentionally. I felt my muscles wake up. I wasn’t anywhere near my peak physical condition, but it didn’t matter.

I was moving, and that was enough.

I wasn’t thinking about “losing baby weight” or pushing myself to achieve. I was only thinking about clearing my head, one step at a time.

Slowly, steadily I walked up that hill, and I knew it was the beginning of my recovery.

At the time, I had no idea that this experience would be so impactful. Looking back, I know that for the first time, I was embarking on a fitness journey motivated by what I knew I would gain — a better outlook, a better mood, and better sleep — instead of what I thought I had to lose.

All too often, we start working out because we don’t like something about ourselves. Too often, we begin exercising with the voice of an inner critic in our head, telling us we aren’t enough in some way — not strong enough, not thin enough, not motivated enough. We feel like we’ll be more if we lose.

Yet, starting a fitness journey to appease that inner critic, rather than quiet it, usually results in frustration, disappointment, and failed commitments. We beat ourselves up mentally and physically, working against our bodies, trying to get them to conform to a standard of someone else’s design. Inevitably, it makes the journey that much harder.

Instead, what I found was that I was better able to see all that exercise could offer me when I started in a place of acceptance.

A successful fitness journey requires meeting yourself exactly where you are now, leaning into how you feel instead of how you look. From that perspective, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of working with your body instead of against it.

Soon, and sometimes without realizing it, you’ll come to appreciate all that you’re capable of, even when you’re just getting started.

With the launch of Healthline Fitness, we’re excited to meet you wherever you are on your fitness journey. We’re here to remind you that fitness isn’t about what you have to lose; it’s about what you can gain.

So much of the broader fitness narrative is about weight loss and unrealistic expectations, but we believe fitness is so much more. When you move in a way that feels good, you’ll improve your mental and physical health, outlook, confidence, and courage — and that’s just the beginning. Because when you find the movement that moves you, you’ll naturally want to keep going for years to come.

Whether you’re an experienced athlete or just exercise-curious, we’ll meet you where you are on your exercise journey and help you with attainable, real-life fitness goals that work with your lifestyle.

Fitness is for every body, and we’re creating a digital space in which everyone can find the support and resources they need. And while we’re at it, we’ll challenge the notion that “fit” looks a certain way.

Our writers, medical reviewers, and video talent are experts in their fields. Certified strength and conditioning coaches, personal and athletic trainers, physical therapists, and even biomechanics PhDs are creating content on par with Healthline’s medical standards.

I’m proud to bring integrity and evidence-based fitness content to our audience in an engaging, encouraging, and empowering way.

Just like you, when it comes to fitness, we’re trying to fit it in any way we can.

Life is busy, and we get it. Still, to reap the benefits of exercise, you don’t need an expensive gym membership or tons of extra time. Your body, space to move, an outdoor path, and just 22 minutes are really all you need to stick to a “move more” plan.

Why 22 minutes? Well, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that we need 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week (1).

Divide that by 7, and that’s about 22 minutes per day. We’ll help you commit to fitting in 22 minutes of movement, and we’ll offer “Fit It In” tips in our articles and newsletters with easy, accessible ways you can move your body more.

Often the two biggest obstacles standing in the way of better fitness are time and confidence. We’re going to help you find time to make fitness part of your lifestyle, and we’ll give you the information you need to feel comfortable and confident doing it.

In short, we’re committed to helping you find the fitness that fits you, and we can’t wait to see all the possibilities that unfold for you when you do.

Thanks for joining us on this journey. Here’s to feeling better than you ever have before.

Saralyn Ward

Lead Fitness Editor


By Alan

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