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Fitness and Its Effect on Mood

Previously, I blogged about Exercise, and its Effect on Mood.  In that post, I reflected on the positive effects of exercise, especially for those suffering from the effects of depression.  There are many scholarly articles available about those benefits, and I continue to believe in the positive aspects of exercise on one’s day-to-day lifestyle.   For this post, I wanted to focus more on the “after” of exercise - fitness - and its effect on one’s overall self esteem.

Self esteem is hugely tied to body image.  How much you like yourself, how you think others look at you, and how you feel about your accomplishments can all be effected by your image of your own body.  One’s image of one’s own level of fitness, and one’s overall health, are   major determinants of one’s self esteem.  “One of the best ways to feel good about your body is to work on having a healthy one!”, says the Center for Young Women’s Health (1).

“Healthy” is one way to view yourself, to positively affect self esteem.  Beyond that, a self-description of “Fit” can boost self esteem even further (2).  Fit is a category one enters at the point one feels positive about one’s overall health, body shape, and ability to perform physical tasks.  It’s different for every person - we all know when we think we’re “there”.  Fit seems to be a longer-term consequence of exercise, and one’s continued commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

So - what can we take from this hugely positive correlation between fitness and self esteem?  First, if we believe we’re fit, we should really think about squashing those thoughts about the “final 5” pounds we think we need to lose.   Second, if we don’t think we’re quite there to “fit”, we need to remember whatever lessons we learned about “perseverance”, and keep our shoulders square towards that target.  And finally - if we think we’ve got a ways to go, we need to remember that every journey begins with a single step, and everything we’re doing is designed to be getting us to the goal.  For all its positive effects on self image and self esteem, fitness is the goal, and the exercise decisions we make - moment by moment, day by day, and choice by choice - are the steps we take on the journey toward that goal.




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