Personal Journey Towards Making Fitness a Lifestyle
I’ve reached a pivotal point in my life. Fitness is a part of my everyday life. When you make it a lifestyle, you recognise the multiple benefits. It is no longer a means to an end. It enriches your day, affects your thoughts and mood, and makes you happy. Fit and health are not a destination, but a way of life. And more importantly, it can be enjoyed.
It took me a long time to get here, but now that I am, I realise it’s the easiest way to stay fit.
At night I become a physical therapist slash psychologist. I take a moment and check in with my body. How do my muscles feel? Are they sore? Tight? How about my joints? Are my wrists bothering me? I proceed and reflect on my mood. Am I in need of motivation? Do I feel like I want to push myself? Do I need to get lost in a workout? Am I feeling stressed? I’m then ready to plan my exercise for the following day.
For as Long as I Can Remember, I’ve Been on a Diet.
I’ve struggled with weight my whole life. Both sides of my family have weight problems. So you can say it’s in my genes. Plus, I’ve always loved to eat. And I mean love. I’ve been made fun of by friends and family. I’ve always ate more than my father and brothers, and then I always ate more than my boyfriends. It was ordinary for waiters at restaurants to think the plate my boyfriend ordered was for me and vice versa, given that he ordered the chicken salad and I ordered the steak. This happened regularly with my high school boyfriend and then with my college boyfriend as well as with my post-college one.
I remember visiting nutritionists. I was regularly given meal plans that restricted calories and guidelines to exercise for a minimum of three times a week. My only thoughts were that if I trained hard enough, I could eat as much as I wanted. My only wish was to be skinny and exercise was the means to get there. There was only one end goal towards my gym time, which was to lose weight. I will never forget being 14 years old and eating a bag of chips while on the treadmill. The entire fixation was on simple calorie in and calorie out.
The Secret is Knowing the Ways Exercise Enriches Your Day-To-Day Life.
A couple of years ago, I took a yoga class and was soon hooked. I experienced the multiple benefits of yoga and began to look forward to the class and love the way I felt afterwards. Soon, I began taking other types of fitness classes: spinning, bootcamp, weight lifting, kickboxing, you name it. Each type provided something different to my days, my thoughts, and my feelings. I could choose the type of exercise based on how I was feeling physically and emotionally. Then, it truly became my therapy. I looked forward to that time that was completely mine, to reflect, to see what my body could achieve, to set goals, to stretch, everything. I saw how the benefits extended, long after the class was over. Without knowing, I changed my perspective on fitness and it became part of my life.
There is no doubt that exercise makes you healthier. The health benefits, including reducing the risk of diseases such as cancer and diabetes, have been the subjects of many years of scientific research. In addition to the endless health benefits, strong muscles, and a leaner physique, exercise can enrich your daily life in other, more “hidden” ways.
5 Hidden Benefits of Exercise
1. Go ahead and add happiness to your day.
When you exercise, ‘happy chemicals’ are released in your brain. These are: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. These neurotransmitters can be called ‘happy chemicals’ since they are responsible for feelings of pleasure and happiness: they work together to make you feel good. Many events can trigger these neurotransmitters, but instead of taking the passenger seat and waiting for these events to happen, you can find ways to activate these chemicals and one way is through exercise. So by scheduling in that gym time, you take an active role in boosting your mood. The takeaway is that exercise can contribute to a more positive state throughout your day which in turn impacts your motivation, productivity, and overall well-being.
2. Raise your energy levels and fight fatigue.
Any exercise or physical activity that gets the heart rate up and the blood flowing and releases endorphins, is going to raise your energy level. As Pete McCall, Exercise Physiologist at the American Council On Exercise has stated: “If a sedentary individual begins an exercise program it will enhance the blood flow carrying oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissue improving their ability to produce more energy.” Exercise literally creates energy in your body. Even though you may feel tired and suffer from fatigue and the last thing you want to do is exercise, actual research shows that getting off the couch and exercising will boost your energy levels.
3. Use it as an antidote to daily stress.
It’s been reported that exercise lowers levels of stress. When you exercise, you’re actually subjecting yourself to a low-level form of stress by raising your heart rate and triggering a burst of hormonal changes. “Expose yourself to this ‘stress’ enough and your body builds up immunity to it. Eventually, it will get better at handling the rest of life’s stressors,” says clinical psychologist Jasper Smits, Ph.D., coauthor of Exercise for Mood and Anxiety. Let’s be real, as you get older your daily stressors increase, whether it be poor communication, difficult coworkers, anxiety over money, family problems, etc. You face stressful situations every day and why not indulge in some fitness time if it is able to reduce your stress, even by a little bit.
4. Feed your brain and become smarter.
Exercise helps feed valuable oxygen and nutrients to your brain to improve cognitive functioning. Just think about it: How do you feel after you exercise? I feel very differently on the day that I go to work in the morning after exercising. On those days I am able to concentrate more. The days that I don’t exercise in the morning, I feel groggy and sluggish. Exercise makes you feel alert and focused; mentally and physically prepared to achieve your goals.
5. Boost your confidence.
When you start working out and achieving goals you never thought possible, you’ll feel an incredible sense of accomplishment. Just the success of creating an exercise plan and sticking to it allows you to enjoy a sense of achievement. It also boosts your personal body image since you become more toned, have a balanced weight, pleasing proportions, better posture, and increased vitality. This boost in confidence extends to other areas of your life, including your relationships, decision making, and your work.
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