There's more to your workout than that getting that "bikini body", and here's why....
We’ve all been there - the first of January rolls around and suddenly we have this new-found motivation to “get that bikini bod” or “get shredded”. While it's amazing to have New Year’s resolutions, working out is something so many people add to their resolutions list, but a week or two (or three) down the line, their plans of working out 5 times a week go out the window. There are so many reasons that this can happen: life gets too busy, it’s just too difficult to commit to going to the gym every single weekday, we lose motivation so skip the gym on Monday, which leads to skipping the gym every other day of the week…
I think one of the biggest factors which has hindered my progress in the past has been that I’ve focused too much on the visible results of exercise - I wanted to have a flat stomach and those “ab lines”, and for all the cellulite to magically vanish - so when, after 4 weeks of diligent exercise and eating relatively well, my body didn’t look all that different - I lost motivation. Because, let’s be serious - why on earth would I want to kill myself in the gym every day of the week if I can’t see some kind of major change in my body.
The reality is this - generally, seeing physical progress can take a lot longer than we like to realize, especially when we are fed Instagram posts of amazing 12-week transformations, where someone lost 10kgs and has ripped abs and buns of steel. Many of these challenges can be extremely successful if you are MAJORLY diligent. Kudo’s to anyone who has participated in one of these and gotten amazing results - you are an inspiration! But for the average person who is just looking to improve their body composition by adding a bit of exercise to their daily routine, we can become demotivated really quickly if we’re only focused on how the exercise could potentially make us look.
Besides promoting fat loss and increasing lean muscle mass (i.e. the visible results), exercise has so many other benefits which can seriously improve your health and well-being. Now, I’m NOT saying that a physical transformation shouldn’t be a part of your motivation. But maybe, if we focused a little more on these non-visible factors as well, it would be easier to commit and stick to an exercise plan. This list is in no way exhaustive, but these are some of the benefits I’ve personally noticed:
Reduced stress and anxiety
Stress is something that we all have to deal with at some point in our lives, and it can be caused by any number of things. Personally, I tend to experience stress around work, and this leads to anxiety (you know, that stomach gripping anxiety that makes you feel kind of nauseous). When this happens, there are two things I can do:
a. Wallow in my anxiety and become more stressed out.
b. Go to the gym.
When I choose option b and get a good sweat sesh in, my anxiety is drastically reduced, and I’m able to approach my work situation with a logical and clear mind, instead of freaking out about how the heck I’m going to cope. Exercise has been shown to reduce stress by reducing cortisol levels (i.e. the stress hormone) over time. For some, doing yoga might help. I personally prefer lifting heavy things with some HIIT in between.
2. Better sleep
Although the reasons are not well understood, the general consensus in scientific research is that exercise can improve the quality of your sleep. Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests that aerobic exercise can increase the amount of time spent in deep sleep – which is when our bodies are repairing themselves. They suggest that exercise raises your core body temperature for a while, and then when it drops back to its normal level, it can result in drowsiness, leading you to fall and stay asleep.
3. Improved functional fitness
Functional fitness is a type of training which increases your ability to do everyday things, like moving that box of crap in your garage without asking for your husbands help, or carrying your child up a flight of stairs without reaching the top and feeling like you might be having an asthma attack. By combining a bit of strength training with a bit of cardio, you can improve your overall fitness and ability to complete everyday tasks – leaving you feeling like Wonder Woman instead of like a Damsel in Distress.
4. Better mood
Exercise releases endorphins, which are neurotransmitters which work on the opiate receptors in the brain – the very same receptors which drugs like morphine work on. As the iconic Elle Woods in Legally Blonde says, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”
5. Increased brain power
A study published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience has shown that aerobic exercise promotes brain activity and increases our ability to think. Another study by researchers from the Mayo Clinic showed that it could be used as a therapeutic tool for those suffering from dementia, for this very reason. Women are also at a higher risk for dementia than men are So, if you want to take better care of your brain, exercise is a good way to start.
6. Increased energy
The funny thing I have noticed about exercise over the past few years is that the more energy I burn, the more energy I have. My body just feels generally better. I wake up earlier, I am more likely to get out and do things, and I have more drive and motivation to be productive. In contrast, during those spells when I have stopped exercising for a while, my body feels drained, gross and I am lazy AF. In one word – bleh. This has nothing to do with my weight when I haven’t been exercising, but more to do with that feeling of sluggishness you get from being inactive.
Starting an exercise journey can be really hard. But, once you have been doing it for a while, you might notice some internal changes in how you view yourself. There’s nothing like hitting a personal best and being proud of yourself for how far you have come from the couch potato you used to be. You might begin to see yourself as more worthy, stronger than you ever realized and someone who is much more capable than you ever thought before.
These are only a few of the many benefits of exercising regularly. Remember, regular exercise doesn’t need to mean going to gym the 5 days per week for 2 hours per day. Studies have even shown that walking for 30 minutes, 3 times per week can have great effects on well--being, not only in protecting your body from health problems but also by the benefits I mentioned in this post.
Now, get out there and move, babe!
All my love,