The writer and actress had to rethink her mindset when it comes to working out.
Mindy Kaling on designed background
Credit: Getty Images Entertainment / Amy Sussman

Mindy Kaling may be a sitcom legend—she wrote on and starred in The Mindy Project and The Office—but she's also a bit of a lifestyle influencer on the side. Kaling is all about sharing healthy, fun recipes on Instagram (like this mouthwatering Bengali egg curry made with leftover Easter eggs) alongside glamorous shots of her red carpet looks. 

And Kaling has also shared a little bit about her overall idea of health and wellness, including her exercise routine. Back in 2021, she told Shape that she tries to jog several miles each week, usually bright and early in the morning. But while fitness has always been a part of Kaling's life, she told Shape that it has taken a lot of effort to accept that she doesn't have a "hard body" or a "six-pack." Now Kaling is opening up even more about her journey to have a healthy relationship with exercise.

Kaling, who has partnered with Propel for its Joy of Working Out campaign, sat down with PEOPLE for a candid conversation about her relationship with exercise. "When I was younger, I had a very specific idea of how working out needed to be. It was like 45 minutes on the treadmill, seven minute mile, it needed to be punishing, I needed to hate it," Kaling tells PEOPLE.

But now, Kaling is focusing on enjoying the workouts that work for her, whether it's a quick walk or some tai chi. She tells PEOPLE that she's more of a "complete hobbyist" when it comes to finding ways to get active—and she's no longer obsessed with feeling miserable while exercising.

"I've really been mixing it up and knowing that if a workout doesn't necessarily make me soak my clothes with sweat, that it still was a good workout," Kaling says. Kaling says her mindset has shifted from wanting to lose weight "for vanity reasons" towards a desire to simply be healthier and enjoy working out, which can work wonders for your health, according to science. In 2021, a study in iScience found that small lifestyle changes—like eating more fruits and veggies or getting active—can extend your longevity, even if you don't lose weight.

And if you have a hard time getting on board with the idea of grueling, sweaty exercise, you can also support your overall health by enjoying afternoon walks, dancing around the kitchen or heading to a yoga class. The best form of exercise is always the one that you enjoy most—after all, you're not likely to stick with a healthy habit if you're not having some fun. Kaling also tells PEOPLE that a major secret to her active lifestyle is staying positive and confident about her love for movement and activity.

"I think there's a lot of women like me, who love movement, love how it makes them feel, but don't necessarily feel confident enough in the way that they look that they feel like owning it," Kaling says. "And that's been a big difference in my life in the past couple of years is that now I'm like, no, I will own it." We love that mindset! No matter how you exercise, you deserve to feel confident.

Kaling's advice has us wanting to take a refreshing walk today—and maybe even follow it up with Kaling's favorite green smoothie.