Working Out Isn’t Just to Lose Weight

Why Do You Work Out?

“I work out so I can eat whatever I want.”

“I work out so I can justify my weekend meals.”

“I work out so I can lose weight.”

These are some common phrases I have heard friends and colleagues say when asked the question, “Why do you work out?” While the responses may differ from one person to the next, an underlying theme of guilt and justification for one’s actions or food choices seems to arise. Far too often, feelings of guilt can lead to shame and before we know it, our motivations for exercise can be become distorted and unhealthy.

As we know, a weight measurement is not a reliable measure of progress or even health in general. Particularly for individuals who exercise regularly, muscle mass is generally higher than for a sedentary individual. As we continue to build muscle, it is not uncommon for total body weight to stay the same or in some cases, increase. However, I find that a weight loss mindset is the most common factor that drives people to hit the gym. Whether the goal is a number on the scale or an image of what an “ideal” body type may be, these are common drivers to motivate exercise.

 

The Best Reason to Work Out

When I asked myself this question, I found my motivation boils down to feeling my best rather than an aesthetic goal or number on the scale. Exercise is one of the best natural methods to improve overall mood and wellness in a holistic sense. When we exert our bodies, our brains release a hormone (known as dopamine) that causes us to feel happier. Additionally, as we move our bodies, whether that be on a walk in the river valley or an hour lifting weight in a gym, we are engaging with ourselves in an intentional way that promotes self-care.

For those who do struggle with a weight loss-focused mentality when it comes to exercise, a helpful place to begin is to start to look at exercise more as movement of the body rather than “working out.” This will remove expectation that exercise can only happen at the gym, but rather that any movement, should it be a walk, playing with your kids in the snow or taking the stairs rather than the elevator, are all positive contributions to your health. It is interesting how when we remove weight expectations with exercise, we associate “working out” much more positively with our wellness rather than as an additional point of stress in the week.

By Barbara Winzeler – Registered Nutritionist/Dietitian

 

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