Run away from the scales: why weight loss shouldn't be the sole focus of exercise

Gabbi De Boer explores some of the benefits of exercise and why it can be an incredible act of self care.

Gabbi De Boer
22nd March 2021
At a time when people are more aware of the words ‘health’ and ‘wellbeing’, it is no wonder that there is such an emphasis on exercise. But the question is, should exercise be so synonymous with weight loss, and if not, what other benefits does it have?

Although not everyone’s lives will revolve around exercise, it should be remembered that there are many benefits to exercise that can have a place in anyones’ lifestyles, whether that is physically or mentally. 

This doesn’t mean that people have to run a 5k or take up a new sport like football to see improvements in their mental health

To begin with, exercise stimulates mental health in an abundance of ways. For example, by regularly exercising, a person can boost self-esteem and increase mental alertness, as well as reducing stress and anxiety. This doesn’t mean that people have to run a 5k or take up a new sport like football to see improvements in their mental health - going for a walk or cycle can also help. Not only does the movement help, but on a good day, walking somewhere beautiful can promote a positive mental attitude as well.

Image credit: Pixabay, @geralt

Exercise progress is also easily measurable, so if taking up a new sport is something someone is considering, watching progress can also boost self-esteem. Whether it is fitness or distance, even form for certain sports, keeping track of improvements and achievements can be really useful for some, especially if they are particularly competitive. This sense of accomplishment can help many people feel productive.

The social aspect of sports teams or exercise groups is also very important for many people, as socialising and being part of something helps increase mood as well. Not only this but many team sports are strategic, and this can help improve people’s skills and perceptiveness in other aspects of their life. 

The problem stems from a much bigger societal issue of ‘health’ equating to a lower weight, which isn’t necessarily the case 

Another reason the emphasis of exercise shouldn’t just be weight loss is that exercise is simply a tool in a much more complex web of things that affect a person’s weight. Losing weight requires a calorie deficit and although exercise helps with this, it plays a much smaller part than eating a balanced and varied diet does. This insistence can be damaging for some as exercise is incredibly physically demanding, and therefore could lead to people over-exercising which could cause an injury. However, the problem stems from a much bigger societal issue of ‘health’ equating to a lower weight, which isn’t necessarily the case. 

Although over-exercising and societal perceptions are still an issue, the mental benefits of exercise are becoming far more well known, especially during the pandemic. Due to restrictions, there has been a realisation that going out and exercising was taken for granted, especially the social aspects that it can provide. It is important to remember, whilst exercise is helpful for weight loss, that the other benefits should not be overlooked. 

Feature image credit: Pixabay, @Stocksnap

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