Issues and Challenges

How Exercise Benefits Wellbeing of Women

This the season! All aboard the New Year’s Resolution train! No matter how you might feel about the coming year, I think it is impossible to not be swept up by the incessant amount of hope that the start of the New Year brings. It is time for you to support (or roll your eyes at) your friend who is yet again, resolved to get their life back on track from the first day of the New Year. I, for one, do not believe in resolutions. I feel that giving yourself a deadline puts too much pressure on you, and often makes you dread what you have to do. 
On the other hand, I am charmed with the idea of beginning anew. There is a certain magic to wanting to become a better version of yourself — and the New Year is just an excuse. One resolution that is often a common denominator amongst women is going to the gym. Since a lot of our self-perceptions are defined by how we appear to ourselves and the world, it is often one of the first entries that you’d find on an aspiring New Year’s resolution list. Here’s the problem though: often the very idea of going to the gym can be paralyzing. There are far too many steps between you and getting into shape.
First of all, I’d like to point out a few important things. So many of us are made self-conscious by how we appear. For example, for years I found it impossible to go to the gym because I thought I was “too fat” or that “I’ll look weird.” I was comparing myself to what I consumed on social media — which, as we all know, is often performative and grossly distorts our perception of what is actually real. It is important for us to love our bodies, because we are enough the way we are. 
For years, we have been confusing getting thinner with getting healthier. It is not our fault, this is the media we have always consumed. Exercise is often only mentioned as a means for you to get “the perfect figure” and honestly, we have sold it short; exercise is a means for you to not only make your body healthy, but also your mind. 
Everyone should make space for physical exercise during their day. It does not have to be a rigorous cardio workout at the gym. It can be a calm yoga session in the privacy of your room, or learning a Zumba routine, going for a swim, or even practicing dance steps to a song. Exercise allows for your body to open, releasing endorphins in your brain. Endorphins are the happy chemicals that your brain releases and they play a big part in reducing your perception of pain. There is a reason that out-of-breath feeling after a cardio session or a run is often described as euphoric. It is simple, you are genuinely happy after you have exercised.
With so much on your plate these days, it is completely understandable that you might not find the time to do something for yourself. I promise you however, if you can make some time for a little exercise, you will start seeing its positive effects in other areas of your life as well. 
Exercise Helps Reduce Depression
There is simple chemistry to this, like I mentioned above. Apart from that, exercise helps with neural growth in the brain and allows it to create behaviour patterns that make you calmer and promote mental wellbeing. If nothing else, it can be a welcome distraction from negative thoughts and a way for you to take a break from your own mind.
Exercise Helps Reduce Stress
Let’s face it, we’re all super-stressed. We are constantly on edge, worried and primed. Stress can have physical effects on your body, manifesting as lower back pain, headaches, or stomach issues. If you have an upset stomach, there is a sure bet that you will have bad dreams. Our body and our mind are intricately connected. Exercise allows you to find a way to alleviate the mental pressure of stress through the physical movements of the body. It is a way for your body to give itself the reprieve it needs, to remove some of the pressure, and breathe easily. 
Exercise Helps with Anxiety
So many women in my close circle suffer from anxiety. It is a common thing nowadays, and it makes sense for it to be there; we are all constantly worrying about surviving in a fast-paced, ever-changing world, dealing with the nihilism that social media brings out. Anxiety can often be described as your brain being too loud. This is where exercise helps. The physical exertion that your body goes through allows your mind reprieve from these thoughts. In fact, it is recommended to use physical exercise as a mindfulness technique. It allows you to impart order on a chaotic mind.
Exercise Helps with PTSD
The science behind this is simple, yet reassuring. Often women do not realize their body going through panic or anxiety attacks due to a delayed trauma response. With regular exercise, you can understand your body’s reactions and often remove yourself from a triggering situation. In other words, you are starting to speak your body’s language. The body keeps the score, and you are able to understand what it needs to function to the best of its ability, and for its safety.
Exercise Helps with PMS
I know this seems like a physical benefit of exercise, but I feel it deserves a spot on our list as well. Our bodies have a monthly cycle that often causes us stress due to a shift in hormones. It is something we all go through and it often affects our mood, leading to fatigue and emotional duress. Having an exercise routine can help you with your monthly cycle and reduce some of the dreaded depression it causes. 
Our physical, mental and emotional health is all co-dependent. With one thing off balance, the entire system that is a human being, starts being a little off kilter. Exercise is an easy way to help bring some of this balance back. You do not need gym equipment,you do not need to join a dedicated Zumba class, just let your body move. If you want to stick to it, switch your exercise routine often and do not pressure yourself into it. Start with something easy: stretch, do some basic aerobics or beginner yoga poses and just let your body feel itself.
I promise you, the sense of productivity that comes afterwards is truly euphoric. It is a simple way to add some happiness to the constant routine of everyday life, and also feel good about yourself. You do not need something like a New Year’s resolution that you will forget after the month of January is up. You just need to agree to love yourself, and give your body and your mind what it deserves to not just function but function well. HH


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