Talking about “exercise” is like talking to ANYBODY IN THE ENTIRE WORLD about their favorite David Bowie album—there’s the unspoken assumption that it’s all good, therefore, the conversation mostly revolves around which is your favorite at the current moment.

Exercise can be as intense as CrossFit, Hot Yoga, or professional weight lifting, or as mild as walking, tai chi, and sleepy-time yoga—”I’m Afraid of Americans,” industrial-Bowie or chill vibes, “Space Oddity” realness; choose your own adventure.

Like gender identities, exercise is not a dichotomous activity existing within the confines of an “either/or” binary—there’s a lot of space and nuances between extremes.

Healthline (who knows how trustworthy they are) recommends 30 minutes of moderate cardio 3x a week, while the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) thinks folx should do aerobic exercise 5x a week, with strength training 2-3 times a week, and stretching twice a week. That’s a great recipe for success if you want to be an Olympic athlete, but it realistically ignores the time constraints of a normal human.

Why Should I Even Exercise?

Exercise is good for people for a multitude of reasons: it releases dopamine and endorphins, while also boosting high-density lipoproteins and decreasing unhealthy triglycerides, thereby making your brain happy and preventing health problems, such as high blood pressure and arthritis. It also helps you sleep and delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues to boost energy.

And it’s free!

For transgender and gender non-conforming (GNC) youth, exercise can have a lot of negative stigma attached to it. Gym class is awkward for everyone, but even more so for youth who identify as LGBTQIA+ – plus, when’s the last time you saw a transgender or gender non-conforming athlete? Representation is important if we want queer youth to see exercise as more than just a cis-heterosexual cultural thing.

Exercise & Gender Dysphoria

Like most of the other interventions on this website, nobody has studied links between exercise and mitigating symptoms of gender dysphoria—we only know it works because it’s how we get through the day. The extra release of endorphins and dopamine that come from biking or “gym yoga” (a name used to refer to Vinyasa flow) can prevent episodic panic or reduce feelings of prolonged aching.

Some forms of exercise, such as weightlifting or Pilates, are so gendered that in addition to releasing happy brain chemicals, they may serve as affirming activities while you or your loved one is transitioning. For those folx who don’t want gendered exercise in their lives, walking with friends and family or going for a solo run can be very healing.

Below is a video of Janae Marie “Kroc” Kroczaleski, a genderqueer athlete and powerlifting champion, talking about her experiences as a transgender athlete and what exercise means to her:

“I am a huge fan of the transgender community.”

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