Healthy Living or a Perfect Body: What’s Your Motivation?

We all want to look and feel our best and regular exercise plays an important role in that. However, it is quite common to get caught up in the dream of having a perfect body. When our fitness goals become all about obtaining that perfect body, rather than about maintaining a healthy body, we might actually be hampering our own efforts.

Why is exercise so important?

While exercise can help us to control our weight – getting us closer to that perfect body, there are many other important reasons to stay fit. Regular exercise can help improve mood, increase energy, and even deliver better sleep. Exercise has also been shown to slow down or prevent some diseases and disabilities. According to the Mayo Clinic website, staying active decreases your risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as aiding in the prevention or management of strokes, Type-2 diabetes, arthritis, and some kinds of cancer.

We can enjoy most of these amazing benefits at any age, but they become even more important as we get older. For example, diminishing cognitive ability is a common affliction associated with aging. However, staying active can improve our ability to handle mental activities like switching between tasks and weeding out irrelevant information.

Why does it matter what motivates us to exercise?

A study done at Clemson University sampled 668 undergraduate women, aged 18 to 24, and found that their motivation to be physically active corresponded to their levels of self-esteem. Those who were motivated by physical appearance had lower self-esteem, while those who were motivated by fitness related goals had higher self-esteem. If our motivation to exercise is merely based on a desire to obtain a perfect body, it might be easy to dwell on negative thoughts about the body that we have right now.

Getting caught up in that kind of negative thinking might lead to a loss of motivation and eventually cause us to give up altogether.

How can we choose positive motivations and fitness goals?

Here are a couple of suggestions that can help us to stay motivated by choosing to focus on the positive aspects of maintaining a consistent habit of healthy exercise:

  • Make a list of reasons why you, personally, like to exercise. Focus on how you feel physically and emotionally when you are exercising. Do you have more energy, feel better about your body, or sleep better at night?
  • Find out what type of physical activity you actually enjoy doing. Try a variety of activities, such as taking a walk, riding a bike, or inviting a friend to play a game of tennis or basketball with you.

While trying to improve our physical appearance isn’t a bad motivator, when it becomes our sole reason for staying active it can lead to diminishing motivation and feelings of low self-esteem. Remember how great exercise is for you and develop positive motivations that will help you on your way to a body that, while it might not be perfect, is healthier and happier.

Other Resources
• http://nihseniorhealth.gov/exerciseforolderadults/healthbenefits/01.html
• http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/fitness_articles.asp?id=1615
• http://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/workout-motivation-beyond-perfect-body/

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