Fitness looks different to each of us, with results and progression meaning different things to different people, but one thing’s for sure – the benefits of exercise extend far beyond the aesthetic. In celebration of Women’s History Month, Florence Reeves-White explains why keeping fit should be for everyone and how to get started
There’s probably been a time in every fitness fanatic’s life when they’ve felt self-conscious while working out. Whether it be a suggestive hip thrust in an exercise class or catching eyes with strangers in the gym, at some point you’ve likely felt an acute self-awareness in a workout environment. Now, add into the mix the feeling that the particular shape, age or ability of your body doesn’t quite fit the mould and the intensity of that feeling may be enough to make you shy away from activity all together. But exercise is for everyone and there are plenty of reasons to work out, even if you’re happy with your body.
Find your ‘why’
Setting a goal will help you to stay motivated but it needn’t be tied up to body image. ‘Exercise can help maintain weight loss but studies have shown that diet is actually the most effective way to shed pounds,’ Betsan de Renesse, co-founder of The Glow Method at Home and an NASM certified personal trainer, tells us. ‘Once the exercise is separated from weight loss, body size or aesthetics, it allows for much more specific, achievable and motivating goals. It’s actually really freeing!’
Setting yourself milestones that centre around strength and endurance can be a great way to take your mind off the scales and measure your success in a way that still keeps you motivated. Keep in mind that you’re less likely to maintain motivation for a fit and healthy life if you’re doing it for anyone other than yourself and how good it makes you feel.
Although exercise is often used as a weight loss tool, its purpose runs so much deeper than adjusting our aesthetic – moving our bodies makes us feel good on the inside as well. ‘Fitness is not one-size-fits-all,’ explains Tatiana Kuzmowycz, ClassPass global creative director. ‘Some people have loved sport since childhood, others got into it as adults to stay healthy, and some just don’t like it (no matter how hard they try). Plus, our bodies look different – ballerinas have different bodies from rugby players, although both are incredible athletes in their own right.’
So, what can you do if you’re feeling nervous about getting started with activity? ‘The world of fitness can sometimes feel intimidating from the outside,’ explains Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of My Online Therapy, ‘but the health of our mind and body is something we all share. Joining a gym and attending group classes can also help us connect and feel a part of something, while spurring us on to reach our goals.’
‘If you’re concerned you’ll feel out of place at a gym or studio, there are ways to put yourself at ease,’ says Kuzmowycz. ‘You can find places that are for women only or those with unisex bathrooms. Do your homework on where you want to work out and where you’ll feel most like yourself. A gym or studio’s photos and website can give you a good idea of the type of environment they support.’