The Immeasurable benefits of Exercise

A few weeks back, a regular reader of my column walked into my fitness centre looking for something more than the usual weight loss. She was looking for a boost in her confidence. She felt unattractive and depressed. She wanted help. This made me think long and hard about the responsibility I shoulder as a fitness professional and the immeasurable benefits of exercise.

We all know that exercise keeps us fit and healthy. But the benefits of exercise go far beyond that. In my role as a fitness professional, what is more fulfilling than helping clients achieve the measurable goals like weight loss, calories burnt or muscle gained are the intangible benefits they derive from regular exercise – greater confidence, higher self-esteem and an overall feeling of happiness and well-being. Here are some of the intangible benefits you are likely to experience through regular exercise.

Exercise Boosts Confidence: Our happiness and confidence are often linked to the way we look and feel about ourselves and exercise helps us get into shape. Exercise makes us healthier, it reduces or even eliminates the stress that is often associated with feeling ill, and makes our immune system stronger and less susceptible to things such as colds and flu.

Exercise Increases Self-Esteem: Gaining control of your body size and weight through fitness is an amazing way to increase self-esteem. You look better and are more confident which empowers you in everything you do. You will find that the self-discipline required for regular exercise spills over into other areas of your life and you will be better able to make other necessary and desirable changes.

Exercise Fights Depression and Makes You Feel Happy:  Need an emotional lift? Or need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A workout at the gym or a brisk 30-minute walk can help. When you exercise regularly, you feel less anxious and are better able to deal with the effects of stress. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals (dopamine and serotonin in particular) that will leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. Exercise makes us feel better about ourselves and gives us a sense of control over our bodies and minds.

Exercise Improves Mental Focus: Did you know that the latest research shows that exercise helps keep the brain sharp well into old age? People who exercise regularly have a higher cognitive function, focus and concentration. Their brains have an enhanced ability to process, understand and learn from new experiences and everyday encounters. These abilities give you a clear focus in life, and you are not perturbed by little annoyances. You also stand a much better chance of avoiding such diseases as Alzheimer’s and senility.

Exercise Boosts Energy: Regular physical activity improves your muscle strength and boosts your endurance. Exercise and physical activity deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you have more energy to go about your daily chores. Everyday things become much easier to do.

I strongly believe that fitness professionals should stop focusing so much on promoting short-term weight loss programmes and spend more time on developing individual physical abilities. Training programmes will then take a more client-centric approach, incorporating a range of techniques that focus on improvement in mobility, posture, strength and co-ordination, rather than concentrating on calorie burning and countless abdominal exercises.

In my experience, few people actually achieve their weight loss goals – and for those who do, it is often temporary. Until we make significant changes in our eating habits, weight problems will continue. On the other hand, improving physical abilities is extremely rewarding and the benefits go well beyond the physiological (weight control, physical fitness, healthy ageing), significantly affecting our psychological well-being as well (confidence, self-esteem, focus). After 6 years of service in Goa, I continue to hold the belief that if my members lose weight, then that is a bonus; my underlying motivation has always been to help them improve their quality of life through exercise. Be fit, be happy, be healthy!

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