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Finally, buying an Apple Watch changed the way I think about exercise

Having an Apple Watch helped me realize that all movements are exercise, not just grueling, intense workouts.

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“You’re almost done!” My crossfit coach is yelling in class. “One more minute!”

I pedal hard on my Assault AirBike (a fan-powered exercise bike found in most CrossFit gyms), trying to hit 15 calories before time runs out. This is the last part of the exercise – came before rounds of motives and Burpees exercises.

Countdown to the clock on the gym wall: 3 … 2 … 1. The workout is over. Everyone in the class, including me, slowly gets off their bikes and lies on the floor, sweating and panting, looking for a much-needed rest before all our gear is returned.

This is the kind of exercise I’m used to: to do as hard as I can, wake up the next day incredibly painful, and then do it all over again. This is because I always thought that in order to “count” the exercise, it had to be that strong.

But I recently got an Apple Watch (yes, I’m late for the game), and it changed my view of what “considers” exercise. And the surprise: it’sAllcounts.

Growing up, I did a lot of competitive sports: gymnastics, swimming, diving, horseback riding, you name it. All of these sports require tremendous strength, and the practices I went into and the workouts I did were filled with rope climbing, core workouts, HIIT sessions, and more—and stopping to rest was frowned upon. In my opinion, it was meant to be a workoutDifficult.

After graduating from college, I started running, and the track workouts and long runs I scored weren’t easy on my body. My mindset was still the same: If I feel like a workout is too easy, I don’t think it matters. If I stop walking while running, I no longer think of it as “running”. Somewhere deep down, I knew I was being hard on myself, but it was hard to undo years of thinking that way.

Then, in 2017, one of my friends started doing crossfit and invited me to come over. I immediately fell in love with the feeling I had after class. If you’ve ever looked at CrossFit training, your first thought will probably be: “There’s no way I can do it.” But when you do itan actComplete the exercise, you will feel untouchable, you can achieve anything in the world.

And while I still love CrossFit, I realize I’m still looking for activities in my adult life that are incredibly taxing.

It’s fairly easy to see how my history with sports has led me to think the way I think when it comes to exercise, but chatting with sports therapist Stephanie Roth-Goldberg, LCSW-R, CEDS-S, helped give me more insight.

“Crossfit and tracking sessions, for example, are usually high intensity and release endorphins that can be released, so you have conditioned yourself to associate these intense sessions with exercise while ignoring everything else. Many fitness influencers can repeat these messages as well,” Ruth Goldberg Says.

“It’s important to realize that moving our bodies can be good without having to sweat or even regulating movement. Some people can relax their rigid thoughts about exercise.”

How Apple Watch helped me be kinder to myself

Everyone I know has an Apple Watch, and I was curious as to what I’m missing out on. So, about six months ago, I bit the bullet and bought one. The first thing I noticed was how easy it was to close the exercise loop.

If you’re not familiar with Apple Watch rings, there are three rings: a red “Movement” ring, a green “Exercise” ring, and a blue “Stand” ring. The “Move” ring shows the number of active calories you’ve burned, the “Exercise” ring shows how many minutes of activity you’ve logged, and the “Stand” ring shows how many times you’ve stood and moved for at least one minute per hour.

The default setting on the watch to close the workout loop is 30 minutes of activity. And almost immediately, I began to notice how easy it was to close that loop. I had a scheduled day off, doing yoga or going for a walk, because these activities are “easy” for me.

I picked a 30-minute yoga video on YouTube that focused on stretching and muscle recovery, and when I finished, my Apple Watch lit up in celebration that I closed the exercise loop. I was really surprised by something that requires so little effort on my part and is considered an exercise.

I also started noticing how the “Move” and “Exercise” loops would start to lock up as I did chores like cleaning the bathroom, mopping the floor, or washing the dishes. My mind stunned. The things I had to do around my apartment were considered exercise?

I started putting all of this together in my mind. If I did a quick, relaxing yoga flow and tidy up my apartment a little, it was enough exercise for the day. If I go for a 3 mile walk after work with my boyfriend to talk about our days, that counts, too.

I didn’t have to lift more body weight or do more reps in an hour than some people do their whole lives for it to “count” as exercise. Of course, I still find it fun and rewarding to do these types of workouts, but I no longer beat myself up when “all I do” is walk after work or the yoga flow of that day.

A 2019 study published inAmerican Journal of EpidemiologyShow that the best fight against being sedentary is to move more, and this movement doesn’t have to include visiting the gym. Researchers have found a link between 30 minutes of easy, low-intensity activity per day – such as walking – and a reduced risk of early death.

So, improving your health doesn’t always mean maximizing your heart rate or muscular load.

“The data can be useful to show people a broader view. Exercise doesn’t have to be painful – sometimes the only exercise we get is cleaning the house because it has to be done and we can’t make time to get to the gym, but then we realized that cleaning Home is also a movement, which was previously discounted,” says Ruth Goldberg. “It’s important to realize that moving our bodies can be good without having to sweat or even regulating movement. Some people can relax their rigid thoughts about exercise.”

While I’ve come a long way, I’m still working on making it easier for myself. And Ruth Goldberg has some advice on how to do just that.

“Indulge in your core self—if you find that you enjoy less intense movements, respect that,” she says.

She also recommends writing down the beliefs you have about exercise, as writing them in front of you can help you re-evaluate whether they are correct.

“Another great activity is writing down how you feel before the low-intensity movement and then doing the same thing after,” she says. “You can often see that you benefit from those low-intensity movements and experience positive things – thoughts, energy, stress relief – from these low-intensity movements. It’s hard to rule out movements that you personally feel positive benefits from.”