Fitness and your self-esteem

The link between exercise and our self-esteem isn’t often explored but there’s more to this relationship than meets the eye

How do you feel after a workout? Pumped? Happy? If you honestly don’t know, do take a minute after your next workout just to suss out how you feel. Afterwards, ask yourself, ‘How do I feel about myself now?’

Self-esteem is generally seen as how positively a person sees him or herself. It can be affected positively via praise and feeling loved, and negatively via criticism and rejection. Our self-esteem can affect other aspects of our lives such as education, health and sport, health behaviours like drug taking, ability to deal with life’s challenges and general mental health.

The reason why I’m asking this is because the International Council for Sport Science and Physical Education wrote that challenging physical activities could help young people find themselves. It is suggested that physical activity could teach us our ‘limits’ and push them to increase our potential.

Researchers have found that physical activities play a large role in improving one’s physical self-worth. For instance, thinking “Oh my arms are so weak, I should just stick to the small weights” but when you find out you’re able to lift 30 kilogram weights, how would that make you feel? It feels great and you begin to change how you think of yourself. Instead of “My arms are weak”, you will think “Wow I can lift 30 kilograms and didn’t even break a sweat”.

Additionally, in a Swiss study, it was found that adolescents who participated in sports clubs were better socially adjusted, less anxious and generally happier with their lives. Sports is a way for these children and adolescents to engage in social interactions and helped them feel socially accepted, instilling a sense of belonging.

Looking good, feeling great

Another way to look at this is that when you’re fit, you will usually look better and feel better as well. Leading an active lifestyle can help you maintain or lose weight and also bulk up. Depending on your fitness goals, once you achieve it, it makes you feel fulfilled, bolstering your self-esteem.

Drawing up a fitness plan and going through with it would give you a sense of achievement while reaping the benefits of regular exercise like stronger bones and lower risk of chronic diseases. Most importantly, pick an activity you enjoy to ensure that you’ll stick to it. To ward off boredom, mix it up by trying a new class or going on a different day to meet new people.

For a lot of people, how we look can directly impact how we see ourselves. Personal body image in the form of proportion, weight, posture and more can be as important as strength, competence at sports and other ways of measuring physical fitness. There’s no set amount of exercise to do in order to improve one’s self-esteem so it’s a matter of trying it out and seeing how it makes you feel. Generally, it’s recommended to have 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week which works out to roughly 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week.

Improvement in the way you look such as better skin due to better blood circulation or dropping two dress sizes can help your self-esteem soar. Being able to fit in the jeans you wore two years ago could help give you that boost in confidence to talk to your crush or with better skin, you’re more likely to hold eye contact with the person you’re talking to without feeling self-conscious about how your skin looks.

All in all, there’s more to fitness than improved physical health. It can help boost your self-esteem which can help you succeed in other areas of your life.