Lately, I have been looking into mental health and how diet and exercise can affect the way that we feel. The topic of body image keeps coming up, there’s been a few research papers on how training can improve body image. I found for me this has been very relevant. When I exercise I feel good, in turn I feel better about the way you look. When I haven’t trained for a few days I start to feel down. I start to get worried about gaining weight, all of which I rather not to waste mental energy on. Exercise for me is very therapeutic.
Why do we focus on body image?
Body dis-satisfaction is rampant in the western world and it’s a problem. We overvalue looks in defining a person and their contribution to society. This has created pressure to conform, into reaching a certain ideal body shape and size. All of which, we know is virtually impossible for most people without the aid of computer software programs like Photoshop.
It’s a sad fact that 50-88% of adolescent girls feel negatively about their body shape or size. Males and adults are not immune either, body dissatisfaction in these two groups along with adolescent females is also increasing.
It’s easy to play the blame game and say that the media or society is the cause of negative body image. However, I am not a fan of playing the blame game, pointing the finger doesn’t help anyone. Coming up with a solution to fix the problem is far more productive. This is where simple lifestyle based intervention can have a large impact on peoples lives.
It is a no brainer that we should stop believing everything we see and read about on the internet. But we as a species are highly impressionable, we tend to be optimistic and tell ourselves we can do that too, even when it maybe to our own health detriment. When you see a picture of a male or female with a body to die for, we not only wish we could be like them, but we also try to push vey hard to get there.
What is body dissatisfaction?
Body dissatisfaction is a negative view of one’s own body weight or shape. The way you feel about your body can potentially lead to disordered eating or excessive exercise practices in an attempt to change body shape. In susceptible people a negative body image is linked mental health conditions like depression.
Studies using strength training have shown thats its a highly effective way of improving body image and self-confidence. When middle-aged women participated in a strength-training program twice a week for 12 weeks they reported having a better attitude about their physical self, felt happier and healthier.
Having a positive body image stems from being confident and comfortable in yourself and the way you look. Positive body image can affect self-esteem, self-acceptance and lead to a healthy outlook and behaviours in all areas of life, not just health. These are factors that make a person want to participate in more healthy behaviours like; eating right, visiting the doctor and exercising more. One the best therapeutic remedy for body dissatisfaction is exercise.
Strength training includes any exercise that places load on muscles so they adapt to be stronger. Depending on the person this can range from doing body weighted exercises to power lifting. The gym is your oyster!
Exercise to improve body image
For the best results combine strength and cardio training for positive body image, mental health and weight reduction. Both forms of exercise are complementary and have unique benefits to health.
If you’re looking for a kick-start to a better outlook on life and yourself, contact an exercise physiologist in your local area. They can devise a strength-training program according to your needs and capabilities. Life is too short to dislike yourself and have a negative body image. Now is the perfect time to start exercising and feel good in your own skin, build a more positive image about yourself.