One of the most popular questions among my readers and clients is “Do I have to exercise?” Let’s shine a new light on exercise, once and for all.

There are three key things the body needs to be doing constantly:

1. Taking in oxygen

2. Pushing out poisons (primarily through the bowel, skin, liver, and lymph)

3. Pumping fresh Life Force Energy (aka Chi or Prana) When any of these three functions slow down, we slow down. When they stop, we stop.

Now, here’s where exercise enters the picture. If our goal is vibrant health and ideal weight and optimal vibrations, we must maximize the above three functions. Some common exercises like jogging, walking, yoga and swimming will help us achieve this, but only in the presence of lots of fresh air—not in an enclosed gym. Further, they will not benefit us significantly if we are not also eating pure, well-combined foods; removing the internal build-up of toxins lodged in our cells; or ensuring that Life Force Energy is flowing throughout our mental and emotional bodies as well.

We should not base exercise on calories or fat burned, which are the completely wrong measuring sticks. We should approach exercise as a way to help us achieve optimum oxygenation, remove waste, and increase the flow of Life Force Energy. (Of course, if you enjoy playing a particular sport or form of exercise, that’s also a good reason.)

In other words, physical exercise is NOT the end-all-be-all of this detox lifestyle. For example, you might enjoy a “gentleman’s workout” of a sauna, some deep breathing/mediation, and a short but oxygenating walk outdoors. Coupled with a cleansing diet of fresh, natural foods, this could keep you looking and feeling much younger, leaner, and stronger than if you were to spend hours a week on gym equipment or in a sculpting class. Exercising in a stale gym environment does very little to contribute to the functions that matter, particularly when paired with a typical gym-goers diet of dense, lifeless, mucus-forming, high-protein foods and shakes. So will you get off the bloody stair-master, already?!

You can count and burn calories till the ice cream truck comes around again, but you will make very little if any progress if your cells and tissues are still burdened with waste matter and if you’re inhabiting poorly ventilated spaces. The good news is that if you have been pounding away on the elliptical trainer with little change to your, um, “bottom line,” it’s not because you’ve failed to push yourself. Rather, your push failed you!

Now, here’s how to make your effort pay off. Instead of a regular exercise routine, what I would recommend is to look at your body on a daily basis and ask yourself the following sets of questions:

1. Is my breathing deep, connected and calm? Am I in my body today or swirling up in my head? What is the quality of the air my blood is receiving? Could I use a nature walk or some deep breathing to oxygenate my blood and bring serenity to my decisions, relationships, and work life?

2. How is my chi flowing today? Is it stagnant? What kind of movement does it require? A real shake-up? A rolling, rhythmic run? Some fluid movement like free dance? Also, why is my energy stagnant? Is it from lack of movement (too much desk work) or constipation? Have I been indoors for too long with poor ventilation? Do I need some fresh air?

3. How have my eliminations been? How does my lymphatic system feel—are the nodules around my armpits or neck tender? Do I feel in need of some extra nurturing? Am I dragging my feet, depleted of energy?

If the answer to any of these latter questions is “yes,” your elimination channels are overloaded, calling out for new concept “exercises” like deep sweating in a sauna, massage therapy, bowel cleansing, rest or meditation, and body brushing. Yes, you can go for a run or do some hardcore exercise if you feel your body is calling out for that, but consider rebalancing and renewing yourself in these other ways.

Going forward, you may find that with a good sauna, meditation routine, and walks around town to run your errands, you won’t need formal exercise for weeks at a time. But then a week or a month will come along when you may need to dance or jog or do yoga stretches every day because, for whatever reason, your body wants to pump even more chi, oxygen and sweat.

On the one hand, this explains why formal exercise is not always effective. On the other hand, it also explains why exercise is so useful—because physical exertion forces deep breathing, movement helps chi circulate, and sweating helps to eliminate waste and stimulates the other eliminative organs as you oxygenate and circulate the blood. Whatever exercise you like—be it yoga, weight training, boxing, or some other sport—take it outside into the fresh air, if possible. Or, at the very least, open all the windows in your apartment or gym so you are not just recycling stale air.

Make no mistake: I’m not saying, “Don’t exercise.” I’m simply offering a new perspective on exercise so that you may invest your time and energy wisely in activities that will make the greatest positive impact on your beauty, vitality and longevity.

Also, take a look around and see what combination of activities best suits your location. Don’t become robotic or too firmly fixed in your routines. Tune into your inner voice, listen to what your body is telling you. As you implement the basic principles of this detox lifestyle, you’ll get more out of, say, dancing around your house for ten minutes (windows open please) than getting up early or skipping an evening with loved ones to hit the gym.

If you’re ever near the water and have access to a sauna, enjoy a short run or a longer walk on the beach, or a swim in the fresh sea, and then hit the sauna followed by a cold shower. This will oxygenate the blood and cells, give you a great Chi boost from the activity of running, walking or swimming; as well as a great purifying sweat to stimulate the lymphatic system and supercharge waste through the extreme temperatures of the sauna and cold shower. In this way, you can experience maximum pleasure in very little time. This, my friends, is the goal. Stop forcing yourself to do exercises you hate, and do what makes you peaceful, clear, and joyful!

With the biggest love energy, Natalia.