I know how intimidating it can be to attempt to start a fitness routine. I also know how easy it is to get fixated on working out solely for the physical results. I mean, how could we not, right? Nowadays, posts of fitness influencers with the most toned bodies and the most active lifestyles are sprinkled all over our feeds. We start to think that, maybe if we worked out hard enough, we could look just like them. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this kind of goal setting, I personally noticed myself getting demotivated every time I did not see immediate physical results. When I first realized my body was changing differently from how their bodies were changing, I was quick to let go of my consistency and I almost said goodbye to my fitness dreams entirely. It was only when I realized that exercise could do so much more for me than make me look skinnier or make me look more toned that it became easier for me to get consistent. Suddenly, working out was something I looked forward to, instead of it feeling like something I did as a punishment for eating too much food. I believe that when we change our perspective on fitness and exercise and start to see what else it could do for our minds and our bodies, it will be easier to love the routine. Here are some things I noticed I gained through exercise, apart from a physical transformation:
Sufficient and proper exercise has the ability to uplift our moods and improve our emotional well-being through boosting our bodies’ natural happy hormones. According to Healthline.com, regular physical activity can increase our dopamine (the hormones in charge of pleasurable sensations), serotonin (another mood-regulating hormone), and endorphin (our very own natural pain reliever) levels! You may notice that post-workout jolt of happiness that you sometimes get and that is all thanks to the hormone production that our regular exercise can stimulate. (Who knew burpees could keep us happy in the long run?)
Healthy Breaks From Reality
When stressful days come and work just does not seem to stop piling up, I’ve found that using my short brain breaks to do simple exercises (with the help of happy hormones, too) can help distract me from the stress. This doesn’t just work on stressful days; it also helps me keep the blues away. On top of simply channeling my anxious energy into physical workouts, the challenge of doing certain exercises helps me keep my brain focused on something other than stress or sadness (and even madness!). This is a healthy way to distract myself because of the many benefits exercise has (including keeping us emotionally balanced). We can keep fit and happy at the same time!
A Stronger Body For Stressful Days
Exercise has also made me feel more capable for stressful days. It is not only a means to distract myself from stress, or a means to fill myself up with happy hormones. The more I workout, the stronger my body gets and the more capable I am of handling difficult situations that come my way. Whether there is a new work project or an exam week at school, well-rounded and consistent exercise can help us keep up with the demands of everyday life.
A New Perspective on Self-Care and Self-Love
Most importantly for me, changing my perspective on exercise has also changed the way I see self-care and self-love. I used to think loving myself meant only really loving myself when I was happy with my body. This meant that when my weight and my strength would fluctuate (as it does for all our bodies, this is normal!!!), so would the way I saw myself. Exercise helped me realize that the mere act of keeping my body healthy to the best of my abilities was the best act of self-care I could muster. Self-love comes when we realize that we love ourselves and our bodies enough to do what is best for it (no matter how we look and no matter what we go through). Exercise made this mindset more sustainable for me, too.
An Improved Relationship With My Body
Overall, exercise made me aware of how much my body is capable of doing. With the ability to produce happy hormones, to see my strength progress everyday, and to witness how much better I am at coping with stress and down days, exercise has shown me the real capacity of my human body. Whether it’s through learning how to do better pushups, making it up more flights of stairs, or even just getting through our every day, exercise can improve the way we see our own abilities. Sometimes, it is not just about reaching all our fitness goals but simply about being reminded of how specially we were built for great things.
Written by: Dominique Espiritu