Exercise is an important part of an overall healthy lifestyle, we can’t deny this. However, more and more our approach to exercise is becoming unhealthy. With the prevalence of “Fitspiration” seemingly everywhere we look, we are morphing our motivations from healthy to obsessive.
I am incredibly passionate about exercise and fitness (I used to be a Human Kinetics major, after all); however, what I am most passionate about is a balanced, healthy approach to fitness. Health is holistic and involves the physical as well as the emotional, psychological, and spiritual.
So in light of this, I thought I would share my…
10 Body Positive Reasons to Exercise
(in no particular order)
1. Stress relief:
There’s nothing like a nice run at sunset to relax the stresses of the day and unwind. Stretching/yoga before bed also helps me wind-down.
Always remember to do your stretched pre- and post-workout! Dynamic (moving) beforehand, and static (stationary) afterwards.
3. Emotional outlet:
When I’m angry, stressed, or overwhelmed, a good session with my punching bag helps me release that tension in a healthy way (and was a huge part of my self-harm recovery).
Did you know falling is a leading cause of injury (and sometimes death) in seniors? The right type of exercise can not only improve your balance, but also help you maintain it for years to come to prevent injury in the future! (tip: get a BOSU or Medicine ball!)
5. Body image:
No, I do not mean that if you exercise your body will change and thus you can feel better about it; I mean that when I am active and taking care of my body–whether it changes visibly or not–I carry myself with more confidence and have fewer “bad body image” days.
6. Physical health:
Yes, we most certainly can’t deny the physical health benefits of exercising: lung health, heart health, the list goes on. Just remember, when gauging the outcomes of exercise on your health, focus on the indicators that matter: the internal ones. Weight, BMI, Waist:Hip ratio etc… are not reliable indicators of one’s true health status.
7. Goals and accomplishment:
I love setting goals and, even more so, I love accomplishing them! Again, focus on body positive goals. For example, one of mine is to be able to run the bleachers without stopping for 20 minutes by the end of the year–note: I have focused on an activity rather than physical feature and I’ve given myself a reasonable length of time so I don’t over-work myself. Other body positive goals can include flexibility goals, other activity progress goals, overall commitment goals etc… (maybe I’ll do a future blog on this!)
8. Social interaction:
I personally prefer to workout alone; however, lots of people love to go for runs (or walks) with friends, or enjoy the social atmosphere at a gym. Don’t underestimate the power of people–just make sure you surround yourself with people who are exercising for similar reasons that you are to avoid triggers/slipping back into unhealthy mindsets.
9. Injury avoidance:
Though over-exercising, unrealistic goals, and body-negative approaches can cause injury, exercising the right way can actually help prevent injury in your day-to-day life. Think about lifting heavy things, running to catch the bus, or helping a friend move, if you are flexible, strong, and have good posture, you are far less likely to injury yourself (and, again, this will become increasingly important as you get older).
Enjoy yourself! Find a physical activity that makes you happy, that lifts your spirits, and let’s you have fun. Exercise should be enjoyed and should be something you look forward to. Try different things and see what works for you–remember, there isn’t only one way to exercise “right” and there is something for everyone (if all else fails, try athletic hula hooping–it’s one of my personal favourites!)
For more information on Body Positive fitness, check out the #StopFitspiration project I started over at Libero Network. It is all about the harms of Fitspiraiton and also offers information and support for creating a more body-positive approach to fitness (including recovering from exercise addiction).
*Note: if you are recovering from an eating disorder, always consult your recovery team (therapist, nutritionist, doctor etc…) before adding exercise to your routine as it may be a trigger. I recommend getting at least two opinions because a doctor may just think “exercise is good for health” however, your therapist may have better insight as to whether you are emotionally/mentally ready.