12 Tricks to Help Highly Sensitive People Develop a Balanced Workout Plan They Actually Like

May 16, 2018 | Blog

Everyone should move their bodies (if they can). Take  the “biggest loser” elements out of the picture (tempting though it may be to stir up images of Jillian Michaels and the crying/screaming sessions that come with the show). I’m not speaking from a place that is concerned only with weight.

Exercise has been shown to help with the following:

  • Improved sleep
  • Increased interest in sex
  • Better endurance
  • Stress relief
  • Improvement in mood
  • Increased energy and stamina
  • Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness
  • Weight reduction
  • Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular fitness

But is that also true with Highly Sensitive people? Are they super special beings with different needs than the average bear?


EVERYONE needs movement. The human body was simply crafted to move. All the time. All day long.

Be that as it may, I will say that developing a balanced exercise plan can be a bit challenging as a highly sensitive person. Not because they need “special” exercises or voodoo magic. But because the circumstances surrounding that exercise might need to be toned down a notch from the stereotypical styles in which Americans have come to know it.

Strength Training: This is not just for power lifting growling burly men at the local fitness club. Everyone should engage in some form of strength training. (And ladies – stop making excuses like “but I don’t want to bulk up!) You have estrogen. A lot of it. That will pretty much prevent any heavy-duty bulking you may have feared.

The challenge with strength training for Highly Sensitive People is that most people assume it has to be done with weights (which are certainly helpful, but not absolutely necessary). It’s not the weights, themselves, that are the problem…but rather that it requires competing for weight machines in gyms that tend to attract alpha style gym rats into the fold. So for highly sensitive individual, you might consider:

  • 1. Purchasing some free weights for your home. A simple internet search for “cheap free weight set” yields a ton of results (many of them well priced). If you need help knowing what to do with those free weights, you can always…
  • 2. Find strength training videos. I’m personally a fan of fitnessblender.com 
  • 3. Download apps that help guide you through strength training sequences. Greatist posted some TERRIFIC examples on their page.
  • 4. Consider working with a personal trainer. Not only will that ensure that you have better form…but it also promotes a more intimate relationship with another human being (not to mention that it will give you a buffer to help you navigate

Cardio Exercise:  Is important for burning fat and for keeping that heart muscle strong. It’s also particularly helpful for highly sensitive people because it helps burn off excess cortisol, and helps them increase endorphins. Given that highly sensitive people are more prone to be affected by  negative stress, exercise is one of the most powerful tools they can have in their arsenal. It flushes out the tension and replaces it with a sense of strength and grounding.

But not all HSP’s are thrilled with the idea of leaping onto a complex cardio machine. Some love it, since it can provide a sense of solitude. You don’t have to think about where you’re going on a machine. Others, though, see it as a glorified hamster wheel. And those fitness classes? Some HSP love the connection they feel in a group…but others detest the absurdly loud music and odd chirpy instructors.

So here are a few ideas to consider:

  • 5. Most HSP love getting out in nature. It’s one of the most replenishing acts you can engage in. What better medicine, therefore, than a hike in the hills? Or a walk in the fields? What are some quiet outdoor spaces near you that you might explore?
  • 6. If you want to join a group class, but just don’t want the intense noise and mental clutter that comes with a high-energy group, you can always partake in a cardio-yoga class. You can get many of the same benefits without feeling overwhelmed.
  • 7. If you feel safer at home (and in solitude) try looking at online resources. I mentioned fitnessblender, above. But there are countless apps available to help you get a good cardio workout.
  • 8. Find a way to link cardio with other things you enjoy doing. For example, I love to read. I always have. But reading and running don’t exactly go together. UNLESS…you can download it to an audio version and have some read to you on your walk.

Flexibility: If ladies aren’t typically crazy about the idea of strength training and weight lifting…it’s my boys who usually balk at flexibility training. Stretching? Yeah…I’m too tough for that.

Except that no one is. Adding flexibility into your repertoire of exercise allows for better mobility and greater versatility of movement. But what is the best way to bend?

  • 9. Yoga is a terrific way to integrate flexibility into a larger exercise routine. It not only helps with mobility, but because so many of the poses in yoga classes also require a balance and strength, it can help you reduce your chance of injury while engaging in other exercises off the mat. You can join classes, if you feel comfortable. If not, you can also try online programs like “Do You Yoga” 
  • 10. Something important to remember…when trying to warm up, you are best served by doing dynamic stretches. Not stagnant ones. For example, if you love to run, you will want to do stretches that include movement in the mix. Ideally, the stretches you do will mimic elements of the movements you will do in your workout.
  • 11. After working out, THAT is when those stagnant stretches will serve you better. The best way to go about it is to stretch the muscle for at least 15 – 30 seconds.
  • 12. But which muscles should you stretch? Some experts say you should stretch everything. Others say it’s better to be more strategic. I adhere to the policy of stretching whatever feels stiff. If you think you need to stretch…go right ahead! No need to be dogmatic about it.

In sum…exercise is good for EVERYONE. Not just highly sensitive people. In my experience, it just appears to be particularly helpful for those with more sensitive nervous systems. It helps them burn off the excess stress, get a hit of the feel-good hormones, and it even helps with sleep. And as all highly sensitive people know…if you can get a good night’s sleep, you can do just about ANYTHING.