So many of us (myself included) have been trained to see fitness and physical activity only as a means to be thin or as a way to burn off those “bad” foods.
I’ve had people assume that I’m eating healthy and exercising because I’m on a diet and trying to lose weight when I’m simply trying to take care of my body and better myself. Instead of focusing on a body-positive reason that is inclusive and accepting, their minds automatically go to a body-negative one.
Yes, working out consistently can change your appearance, but that’s not the whole purpose of exercising.
When it seems like the health and fitness industries are focusing solely on weight loss, it’s no wonder people believe exercises’ sole purpose is to change your body.
My journey with exercise
When I first started working out I wanted to lose weight for health reasons. But over time exercise became so much more than a means to an end.
It became a form of body-positive self-care that allows me to move freely, get stronger, and achieve things that I never thought I could.
I discovered that accepting myself and my body was more important than having a six-pack.
I discovered that obsessively trying to look like someone else was causing me mental harm.
I discovered that just because I work out doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate my body.
I learned that self-love and self-improvement are not mutually exclusive.
Like Georgie from In It For The Long Run perfectly put it: “Self-love is accepting that the body you were given is enough and taking care of your body isn’t the same thing as obsessively manipulating it.”
If you’ve felt discouraged, frustrated, and unmotivated with exercise and the fitness industry, this one’s for you. I like to think that in order to fully reap all the benefits of exercise, it should be done for one reason alone: to take care of your body from the inside out.
Here are 9 body-positive reasons to exercise to help you create a more positive and accepting mindset around fitness.
1. Get stronger
Whether you’re lifting a heavier weight, holding your headstand longer, beating your 5K personal best, or simply feeling like you’re unstoppable during the entire duration of your exercise class, the more you exert your body the stronger and more resilient it becomes.
Of course, your newfound strength and endurance can help you in your day-to-day life as well.
How awesome would it be if you could carry all the groceries in one trip?
Or what if you could open all those pesky jars? I know I feel hella strong when I can do it.
Being strong is empowering, invigorating, and feels darn good. There’s no better feeling than seeing how your body can thrive off regular physical activity.
Related post: How to Activate Your Muscles for a Better Workout
2. Have fun
Don’t do shit you hate. Plain and simple. Exercise should and totally can be fun and enjoyable.
The most important thing you can do for yourself is to find a physical activity that you LOVE. Whether it’s playing on an adult sports team, yoga, swimming, dancing, kickboxing, rock climbing, or running, finding an activity that uplifts you will help keep you motivated and excited to move your body.
If you’re still searching for that thing that you love, don’t be afraid to try new things. Remember that everyone starts somewhere.
Personally, I love lifting because of how strong it makes me feel. I also love yoga because of the peace it brings me and flexibility that it allows me to practice.
I’ll be honest, while I love lifting and yoga, some days I just don’t feel motivated.
You’ll have days like this too, and it’s important to know that even when you find something you love, you’ll have days where you’re just not feeling it and that’s completely OK.
Still, finding something that excites you helps to make exercise feel like less of a chore and more like a fun ritual.
3. Challenge yourself
Stepping out of your comfort zone is uncomfortable, isn’t it? But that’s exactly where the magic happens (corny, but true!)
Working out isn’t easy, especially when you’re just starting out. But the more consistent you are and the more you push yourself, the better you will get at it.
Setting body-positive workout goals that relate to flexibility, strength, endurance, commitment, and stamina will help you focus less on the physical aspect of working out and focus more on bettering yourself from the inside out.
For example, it can be “do the stair master for 10 minutes on level 4 without taking a break” or “finish my daily neighborhood walk 5 minutes faster by the end of the month.”
Every time you reach an exercise goal that isn’t tied to your physical appearance, you’re giving yourself an inner confidence boost and strengthening your mental resilience.
When you focus on your insides instead of your outsides, you’ll start to see that accomplishing things you never thought possible is truly liberating.Every time you reach an exercise goal that isn’t tied to your physical appearance, you’re giving yourself an inner confidence boost and strengthening your mental resilience. Click To Tweet
4. Improve your physical health
Energy boost, stronger heart, better sleep – the list of the health benefits of exercise goes on.
Among the many physical health benefits, exercising regularly also helps to ease muscle aches and pains, boost flexibility, and improve blood circulation.
If you work a 9-5, you know the struggle of sitting all day. If you have aches and pains, a lot of the time it can indicate that your muscles are weak and tight.
Exercise not only helps strengthen, stretch and relax those tight muscles, but it also increases blood circulation to the entire body.
When your muscles are strong, relaxed, and receive the proper blood flow, you also avoid injuries in your day-to-day life. Whether you’re lifting heavy things, running to catch the bus, or playing with your kids, you’re far less likely to injure yourself.
5. Celebrate what your body can do
How often do you thank and appreciate your body for allowing you to do everything that you do daily?
Think about the simple things that our bodies allow us to do that we take for granted every day: being able to walk, talk, run, write, stand, sit, chew, go outside…the list goes on.
Now imagine all the people that can’t do all these things that we take for granted. The people that can’t exercise at all even though they want to.
Whether they have a disability or another health condition, not everyone has the privilege to move their body and be active.
I always try to reflect on this whenever I’m in an exercise rut (which can happen quite often – I’m not perfect by any means.)
There’s been times where I’ve been injured and couldn’t work out for months. It was super hard mentally because I wanted to be active but I physically couldn’t.
Those times of inactivity have helped me appreciate my body when I can exercise. It helps me to really feel like exercise is a celebration of what my body allows me to do because I know that not everyone can take advantage of their body like I can.
Reflecting on how my body keeps me healthy and able makes me appreciate all the things my body does to help me live an active life I enjoy.9 Body-Positive Reasons to Exercise Click To Tweet
6. Boost your mood
Exercising makes you feel like a happy badass. Yup, I said it. This goes hand-in-hand with finding an exercise that you absolutely love.
When you do things that you love it’s hard to wipe the grin off your face, right?
Many people also report feeling relaxed and at peace after exercise. That’s because when you work out, your body releases endorphins aka “happy hormones” that naturally improve your mood.
7. Find an outlet to de-stress
Had a stressful day at work? Need some alone time from your family? I’m sure you’ve had those days where you’re just itching to let out all your stress and decompress.
Some days you just want to crawl into a ball and lay on your bed all day (which is totally acceptable sometimes by the way), but don’t you feel so much better when you blow off some steam by getting your body moving?
Physical activity serves as an emotional outlet and lets you release your tension in a healthy way.
Not only does exercising help relieve stress, but it gives you the “me” time you deserve. It’s an amazing way to clear your head and focus on yourself.
Related Post: 12 Simple Self-Care Tips and Ideas for a Healthy Life
8. Improve your posture
I struggle with bad posture because I’m so used to slouching over a computer for hours at a time.
When you have poor posture, it can also mean you suffer from back pain. When I started to exercise regularly, I noticed that not only did my posture get better but the pain in my back and shoulders greatly improved.
Since your muscles and bones are inter-connected, the more you strengthen the muscles that hold up your spine and your core, the more aligned and upright your body will get.
9. Connect with like-minded people
Whether you’re taking a dance class, at the gym, or doing yoga, exercising helps to create a sense of community with the like-minded people that surround you.
When you do find a tribe in your workout space, remember to try to surround yourself with people who are exercising for similar reasons.
If that’s hard, leading by example and changing the conversation when “diet”, “calories”, and “weight” talks arise will help you avoid triggers or slipping back into an unhealthy mindset.
If you’re not the type to randomly strike up a conversation with the stranger next to you (I’m with ya), simply being surrounded by people who are striving to improve their health and better themselves helps you feel like you’re part of something and in turn boosts your own motivation to show up.
Good health isn’t about being skinny just like exercising isn’t about trying to obsessively change your body.
When you exercise regularly with a body-positive mindset, you’re not only becoming physically stronger but mentally stronger as well.
You detach yourself from the physical appearance shackles of the health industry and create a self-improvement experience that allows you to move, connect, and persevere in a way that makes you feel strong and confident.
It takes time and patience to develop a healthy relationship with exercise but when you do, it feels like freedom.
Now over to you … have you reached a point where your more focused on what exercise is doing to your insides instead of your outsides? What do you most struggle with when it comes to a healthy exercise mentality?