What Physical Fitness Means to Us

If you were to ask an auditorium full of high school students what kind of body type they associate with the words "in shape" the majority of them would likely respond with "long and lean". Guys would think broad shoulders and a strong chest and girls would think flat stomach and an hourglass figure. Thank you Kim K. The ideal body and its capabilities differ depending on age and wherever you land on the spectrum that is gender. People in their 20's and 30's would envision a strong, muscular body. By the time you're a senior citizen, sitting down quickly without hurting yourself is considered an accomplishment. Your dream body is influenced by the media, where you live in the world, and the body types and attitudes of your peers. 

A scary percentage of teenagers and adults have experienced an eating disorder at some point in their life. Whether it be Anorexia, Bulimia, or Orthorexia nervosa a distressing number of people are not happy with what they see when they look in the mirror. In fact, the most confident and beautiful person you know has probably had days on which they don't feel too great about their body either. Yes, even supermodels and Victoria Secret Angels have bad days. 

The point I'm trying to make is that when it comes to body type, despite what the media communicates to us, there is no one size fits all. Everyone has different ideas of what the 'perfect' body looks like. Some people are more or less confident with their bodies than other people. In my opinion there is no such thing as what the perfect body looks like. The perfect body feels a certain way and is able to do certain things. My perfect body can run up the stairs without panting and is able to take one trip from the car to the front door with all my groceries. Two trips are for pansies.

In all seriousness fitness is a journey. Its path is set by your goals as an individual. No one can tell you what these goals should be. Your objective could be to feel better about yourself in a bathing suit or it could be doing 30 pushups in succession. 

I strongly believe that everyone should exercise as much as they can given their schedule and ability. You will begin to feel more confident, more energetic, and less anxious and unhappy over time. These are the foremost reasons to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Shedding a couple pounds is merely a byproduct of all your hard work rather than your initial reason for working hard. 

Benefits of Exercise 

  1. Cardio increases the size of the hippocampus thus boosting memory and thinking. The hippocampus, which is located in the brain's medial temporal lobe, is a vital part of the limbic system. It links to long term memory as well as sense of direction. 
  2. Reduces insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when the body's cells don't unlock themselves and use glucose in the bloodstream as a source of energy. In turn the risk of acquiring pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes is significantly lowered. 
  3. Reduces brain inflammation.
  4. Encourages the issuing of growth factors. These are chemicals in the brain that promote blood vessel growth, the survival of brain cells, and their numbers.
  5. Regulates sleeping patterns which improve your mood as well. You'll generally feel more awake and energized throughout the day. 
  6. Contributes to the growth of the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex. These areas are associated with thinking and memory skills as well.
  7. Significantly decreases stress and anxiety. Endorphins, which are multifaceted chemicals, are produced when exercising. They work as painkillers and improve your ability to fall asleep. This can help to alleviate stress.

Above are just a handful of the benefits of exerting yourself. It is recommended that everyone exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. This can be moderate to intense activity so remember to work out in a way in which you feel comfortable. Some people like to dance, some hit the gym, and others walk up and down their stairs. Moderate intensity does not equate to throwing your dog's chew toy across the room. Don't do it. 

Don't push yourself too hard and take your time easing into regular workouts if you're not used to exercise. Refrain from taking on an insane crash diet before your trip to Mexico because its ultimately not going to help you lose weight. Similarly, don't adopt veganism if you've always been a diehard meat eater. Although that's a different topic altogether so I won't educate you on the benefits of a plant based diet. Yet. 

Most importantly have fun with your 30 minutes or more of exercise. If you need some more inspiration on how to do that check out my next post. 

"To lose confidence in one's body is to lose confidence in oneself" - Simone de Beauvoir


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