Fitness Magazine

Do Vegans Need To Exercise?

By Dreenaburton @dreenaburton

Answer seems obvious: "yes!" But, since I am questioned about exercise often, I felt it was time to discuss.  The questions I get usually relate to being a woman and the fact that I am thin, yet a cook, making cookies and ice cream and what-not, and therefore hear something along the lines of: "how do you stay so thin... do you exercise?"
Yes, I do exercise.  Exercise is part of my life.  It gives me a physical and mental boost, brings me calm later in the day, and is also a stress 'outlet' (I've been known to kick-box through a few people situations from time to time). ;)  So, most mornings (4-5 times a week) I'm doing some form of cardio, resistance training, or yoga.  It's not for a long period of time, usually 1/2 hour or so, but it works for me.  I've learned from my own personal experience that exercising much longer than that becomes enervating - for me.  That's probably because I do like to exercise most days.  So, having shorter spurts of more regular exercise suits me better than having extended periods of working out for just 2-3 days a week. Particularly at this time in my life when I'm also very active throughout the day, every day.
I think people assume that if you eat vegan, you will automatically become thin.  Not necessarily.  I do believe that if you eat a whole-foods plant-based diet, that losing excess pounds and maintaing a healthy weight is far more manageable than eating a standard diet.  But not a given.  You can eat vegan and not lose weight, or in fact you can gain weight.  If your diet is more about high-caloric and refined foods, and less about vegetables, beans, and grains... the weight will hang on - particularly if you aren't very active.  Not all vegans are thin.  And, exercise cannot be overlooked.
Over the years, I've been called "too skinny" by some, and like anyone upset by being called 'fat' or 'chubby', it is also most unpleasant to have someone say you are too skinny or question if you are anorexic.  I have had thinner times in my life, and heavier times.  As a child and teen, I was very chubby and recall being on 'diets' as early as grade 4.  I have also been too thin.  After becoming a mom I went through a period when I had unreasonably high standards for my own achievements in work and exercise, lost more weight than I even realized at the time, and made a point to purposely regain weight to get back to my healthier self.  Right now, I am happy with my size or weight or whatever you call it.  I think I am slender, but not too thin or skinny.  I have a very small frame and am tall, so I have a lanky appearance even with some added poundage.  I exercise, feel strong, but no longer overdo the exercise as I am already very active daily with the girls and managing a household and cooking, errands, chores, etc.  That's where I lost the balance soon after having children.  I used to be far more sedentary before the kiddos, and needed more exercise to stay in shape.  Now, I'm moving far more in the day and my body simply does not need extended periods of working out at this stage in my life.  If I do too much, I'm drained.  If I do just enough, I'm energized and feel healthy.
So, what exactly do I do?  For those that want to know...  I exercise at home with some tools at my disposal.  I used to go to gyms years back, but with the three girls I find it far easier to hit "play park" these days.  (fyi, "play park" is our downstairs playroom which is also my 'gym', and as such my workouts usually begin by kicking stuffies and figurines out of the 'workout area'!)  I have dvds and recorded tv shows (over years) that give me a blend of weight-training, cardio, and also yoga and pilates workouts.  A few tools like a rebounder step, BOSU light weights, weighted bar and resistance band help out.  I had some of these pieces for years and years.  This is what I like to do.  I see people jogging in the rain and can't relate.  I admire their gusto, but I'd freeze my ass off, I tell you!  I love the combination of movement and music, and do not like a cold breeze or wind of any kind!  So, these kinds of workouts suit me, but aren't for everyone.
Do I have it all figured out now?  No.  I don't think so.  I read books like Brendan Brazier's "Thrive", and think I could probably do much more.  But then, I also come back to my reality of being a mom of three and writing cookbooks and know that I'm doing what works at this time in my life.  I also know my body would benefit from even more stretching and mind and spirit from more meditative practice.  I see updates on fb from Melissa West and sense I would benefit from more focused, guided yoga - and yes, definitely some Thai massage (hook me up, Melissa)!  Indeed, regular meditation and yoga might be the better stress release than kick-boxing the heck out of my "situations".  :)
For now, I'm enjoying my exercise and respecting my limits.  I think exercise will always be part of my life.  Just as how eating vegan is part of my life rather than a 'diet'.  I've exercised for as long as I can remember.  While it started out as a weight-loss measure in my teens, now it is part of lifestyle maintenance.  If that makes sense.  Exercise is part of healthy living, and vegans are no exception to this rule as most of us live more sedentary lives than our bodies would like.
I have no idea if this is at all interesting or useful to you as a reader out there.  I haven't shared this part of my life much, but have been asked the question enough times that I decided to talk about it.  Maybe you've also wanted to ask, or maybe it makes no difference to you.  Guess I'll soon find out!  And, I'll be back to talking food, recipes, and the new cookbook soon enough.  Go shake it already.

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