In the pursuit of creating a healthy lifestyle for oneself, movement is a key component with benefits that go far beyond weight-loss. However, for the individual who is unsatisfied with their weight, weight-loss is an exciting outcome of consistently exercising! Unfortunately, as exercise is often seen as a punishment rather than a reward, it is often neglected or done begrudgingly. If we want to see lasting change, we cannot begin running or weight lifting out of spite for our bodies. Luckily, when we begin to associate physical activity with positive outcomes it has the opportunity to become one of the most enjoyable aspects of our lives. By finding forms of exercise that we enjoy and learning about the benefits that are not related to the way we look, we are welcomed into a positive relationship with exercise that may not only encourage weight-loss, but also increase our overall sense of well-being.
A positive relationship with exercise
To experience a positive relationship with exercise I believe the most important thing that we can do is to find a way to move our bodies that makes us feel alive. By that, I mean, if you do not look forward to the exercise that you are currently doing or if you do not miss it after a week without it, you need to look for new ways to engage in physical activity. Not only will this cause exercise to be fun, it ensures consistency, which may increase the likelihood of weight-loss! To do this we need to invest our time discovering whether we prefer swimming to running, weight lifting to yoga, barre to crossfit, or hockey to basketball. When we have discovered a few different forms of exercise that we truly enjoy, we need to slowly incorporate them into our lives so they become apart of our daily routine. Three years ago, I decided to run in a 10K race as I felt uncomfortable in my body and needed a healthy way to cope with my workload at school. In sum, I wanted to increase my well-being and felt that exercise was a good place to start. Not only was I engaging in a movement that I found enjoyable, I was spending more time outside, connecting with other runners, and fulfilling personal goals. Working my way up to running 10 kilometres was a process, but it was one of the best decisions I have ever made! Three years later and I often run 40-50 kilometres a week as a way to manage stress, my overall physical health, and, simply, because I love it! Although I was commuting a total of three hours a day for work over the past year, I still found time to run almost every day. Busyness is not an excuse when you find a form of exercise that you love!
Exploring the benefits of exercise
Another important aspect of creating a positive relationship with physical activity is exploring the benefits that go beyond fitting into the societal ideals of “looking good.” Exercise has various positive outcomes on ones mental health that are worth exploring. First, it has been suggested that individuals who exercise are more emotionally resilient in the face of stress, as stress is less likely to decrease positive emotions in regular exercisers when compared to sedentary individuals (Childs & de Wit, 2014). The reasons for this may be a positive view of oneself, continual participation in enjoyable activities or the lower cortisol levels that have been linked to exercise (Hill et al., 2008). Further, the benefits of physical activity may also decrease the symptoms of depression and anxiety (Dinas, Koutedakis, & Flouris, 2011; Goodwin, 2003), and reduce the likelihood of premature mortality (Kujala et al., 1998). As physical activity has the potential to create a long, healthy life for us, it is important to see the whole picture when engaging in a positive weight-loss experience. Instead of solely working out to fit into a pair of pants from five years ago, I encourage you to work out to increase your sense of well-being!
Tips For Creating A Relationship With Exercise
1. Enjoyment: There are many ways to make exercise enjoyable, the first being doing something you love. Further, if you like being around people, start incorporating exercise into your social life by hiking or doing hot yoga with a friend.
2. Consistency: Create a habit out of your enjoyable physical activity. If you feel too busy to allocate a chunk of time out of your day for exercise, begin by walking or biking to work if you are able. This is a practical way to start moving your body.
3. Education: Continually expose yourself to the benefits of exercise beyond the way it makes you look. Do not simply store your newfound knowledge, but utilize it and put it into practice. As I stated above, exercise may be an effective tool in managing stress, so when you are experiencing stress, carve out time to go to a kickboxing class or join a sports team.
Happy sweating, friends!
Childs, E., & Wit, H. D. (2014). Regular exercise is associated with emotional resilience to acute stress in healthy adults. Frontiers in Physiology, 5 doi:10.3389/fphys.2014.00161
Dinas, P., Koutedakis, Y., and Flouris, A. (2011). Effects of exercise and physical activity on depression. Ir. J. Med. Sci. 180, 319–325. doi: 10.1007/s11845-010-0633-9
Goodwin, R. (2003). Association between physical activity and mental disorders among adults in the United States. Prev. Med. 36, 698–703. doi: 10.1016/S0091-7435(03)00042-2
Hill, E., Zack, E., Battaglini, C., Viru, M., Viru, A., & Hackney, A. C. (2008). Exercise and circulating Cortisol levels: The intensity threshold effect. Journal of
Endocrinological Investigation, 31(7), 587-591. doi:10.1007/bf03345606
Kujala, U. M., Kaprio, J., Sarna, S., and Koskenvuo, M. (1998). Relationship of leisure-time physical activity and mortality: the Finnish twin cohort. JAMA 279, 440–444. doi: 10.1001/jama.279.6.440
About the Author: Amanda Gould is a MAPP distance student at Buckinghamshire New University, living near Toronto, Canada. You can typically find her running, drinking a smoothie, or figuring out new ways to live her best life!