With a generation so obsessed with appearance and aesthetics, the goal of exercise very often centres purely around losing weight, whether that be strenuous exercise, hours of cardio, or ridiculous fad diets which constitute colossal health risks. Or often, worse repercussions can lead to harmful eating disorders, with eating disorder charity ‘beat’, estimating over 1.25 million people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder.
Shifting the focus of exercise to feeling good is necessary to ensure that those who struggle with body image issues can enjoy the plethora of benefits that regular exercise can offer, without being haunted by the number on the scale. Exercising relieves stress levels, improves sleep, releases powerful endorphins and can yield fantastic social benefits when involving team sports. Toxic gym culture, akin to over-strenuous diet and exercise as well as potential risks of body dysmorphia, will inevitably do more harm than good to the mental wellbeing of many.
Forgetting this, going for a morning or night-time run with your favourite playlist or podcast in your ear, as well as daily yoga and stretching, or playing a sport you love with friends will bring monumental benefits physically; but most importantly, mentally. Womensrunning.com highlights that ‘Long-term exercise has been proven comparable to psychotherapy and drug therapy', showing that mental health problems such as anxiety and depression can be alleviated with exercise inevitably leading to a better mental state.
Personally, I have exercised all my life whether that be stints in the gym, lockdown runs, or mobility based exercises when I was performing physiotherapy after a torn ACL. Despite this, undoubtedly the most I have ever enjoyed exercise has been playing football with my friends, whether that be with the school team with which I made memories I will cherish forever, or a game of 5-a-side after work or Uni, which allows me to totally unwind and forget any problems. The competitive aspect, the physical benefits of playing a sport, as well as spending time with mates vastly outweighs the positives of arbitrary weight loss.
I implore anyone struggling with trying to enjoy working out to think about the social aspect, as this could be the key to enjoying all the physical and mental benefits of exercising. Being obsessed with the number on the scale will largely do more harm than good, and negates the whole point of exercising: to feel good.