Emotional Fitness: How many calories does that burn, again?—Jess Weiner

by Jess Weiner

My relationship with exercise has enjoyed a long and windy road.

When I was a little girl, I could play for hours outside, my sweaty hair matted down on my forehead and completely content from climbing trees, playing kickball or swimming in someone’s pool. When I was a tween, exercise was introduced to me as a concept of discipline and what you must do in order to lose weight. And by the time I was a teen, I went from playing outside to counting sit-ups inside my bedroom, door locked, secrets kept. In college, I would enter treatment for exercise bulimia and other eating disorders and my reconciliation and new relationship with health and fitness would begin.

I would learn that to be fit one didn’t need to punish themselves mercilessly. To be fit one didn’t need to be super lean (or super hungry). I would learn that fitness was just as much about emotional and spiritual well-being as it was about physical fitness.

However, we can’t ignore our physical carriage—the body we’ve come to walk through life in—and it’s our job to keep it as healthy as possible. The good news is there are lots of ways we can create regular activity in our lives that keep us physically active. Some of us just have to be creative—maybe we don’t have enough money to join a gym right now. Or maybe if you are like me—the thought of spending an hour on a treadmill going nowhere smacks too much of being a lab rat on a wheel and you’d much prefer some outdoor stimulation. Taking a walk or run or bike ride outside is still the cheapest and easiest way to move our bodies. I also happen to love taking classes—dance (salsa) or yoga (hatha) or even Jazzercise (remember that??). I love the group atmosphere of learning a new step or routine together, and the vibe of a class can be pretty helpful in those moments when you want to quit.

I think the biggest lesson I am learning now about fitness as I age is that consistency is the key, even if the intensity may wane. I may not sweat my butt off seven days a week, –but if I can at least move my body a few days a week—in some form of meditative and (hopefully heart rate-pumping) exercise—then that is a major accomplishment!

My perfect exercise experience now is when I am having FUN! Yes, fun! I recently took a NIA class—part yoga, part Pilates, part dance. It was amazing—like Jazzercise light. I enjoyed the free flowing breath moving into each body part as I jammed to the music. I felt lighter and happier after that class. That’s a good workout! Don’t get me wrong, compared to Bowflex models, late night infomercial exercise-a-holics and the average gym rat in L.A., I am not super-fit. But in my own little version of health and happiness I am doing just fine.

I still have my own personal fitness goals I’d like to accomplish (another marathon, perhaps?) but for now my big goal is to maintain a balance of emotional, spiritual, intellectual and physical fitness.

Previously published on MSN.com

Jess Weiner is an author, confidence expert, and brand consultant. Find her @jessweiner on Twitter. She’ll speak at the 2011 Texas Conference for Women in a health and wellness workshop titled “Creating Conscious Weight Wellness.”