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Why We Should Exercise

Changing exercise motivations from physical to mental

Drexel Recreation Center in Philadelphia, PA

When I teach a group exercise class, I always ask my participants why they came to class today. What brought them here to experience this heart-pumping, leg throbbing, mentally challenging workout class today? Many of the reasons are obvious; to lose weight, to tone, to negate all that alcohol from the weekend. However, with the most frequent gym-goers especially, I am finding that people need the workout for more than just physical reasons. I have participants that attend an exercise class purely for the mentally stimulating environment that it can provide. Some participants are even starting to consider the physical benefits as merely an “added bonus.”

Exercise has many health benefits, and the mental health benefits that it can provide are some of its most important health benefits. Naturally, people are drawn to do what they want and like to do. Thus, the main motivation for exercise cannot be just the physical benefits. The motivation needs to run deeper than that to see the profound effect that movement can have on the heart, mind, and muscles.

Today there are so many forms of exercise available. There are group environments, one-on-one trainings, even virtual trainings. There are cardio-focused, strengthening, stretching, competition-based, and sport-style variations of movement available. Needless to say, there is a type of movement for everyone out there. Explore your options. Try a kickboxing class one day. Try a cycle class another day. Then maybe explore the yoga class. And if you do not fancy any of these, try to lift some weights on your own or hop on one of the many machines available at your local gym. And if all else fails, grab your bike or take a walk or jog outside! (I suggest you pair these activities with some upbeat music of your choosing).

If you find that type of movement that you get excited, mentally, to do and that also feels good physically during the workout, then it is possible that you have found something that can act as therapy for you. Try to lose yourself in the movement, the music, the silence, the sweat, the adrenaline, or whatever it is that is compelling you and urging you to perform that specific activity. The empowerment that you feel from sticking to something that is beneficial for your health, mental well-being, and self-esteem is life-changing. You can carry this feeling outside the gym and thus be a better parent, significant other, friend, student, teacher, manager, co-worker, employee, son/daughter, etc. for all the other people in your life.

I will conclude by saying that it is important to exercise for more than just what takes place in the gym. The physical and mental strength, the focus, the determination and biological benefits of exercise take the workout from inside the gym to outside of it. Remember that the body is a gift and it is powerful. You can find peace through movement and feel alive, invigorated, and refreshed.

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