How do you know if your relationship with exercise is healthy?
In today’s society exercise is heavily promoted, and not just for health reasons. We are being urged to exercise for “gains”, for the “bikini body”, for weight loss and even to “balance out that birthday cake” we ate.
With all these messages coming at us it’s understandable how unhealthy relationships with exercise arise.
What was supposed to lead to happiness, health and the perfect body can end up leading to unhappiness, mental illness and poor health.
Over-exercising, exercise addiction and unhealthy relationships with exercise creep up on you. Since exercise is so highly regarded in our society, it’s all too easy to push yourself too hard – and still have people praising you for your “healthy lifestyle”.
How do you know if you are overdoing it?
It is a well-known fact that a moderate amount of exercise can help maintain good health. But there are no set rules or exact formulas for “health” and everyone is different.
If you do a quick internet search of “how to know if your exercise habits are healthy?” you will come up with the usual questions to ask yourself:
Are you always sore and tired?
Do you having trouble sleeping?
Have you skipped out on social engagements to exercise?
Do you exercising to compensate for food?
Do you force yourself to do exercise in ways you don’t find enjoyable?
These are all great questions and strong indicators that something might be wrong in your relationship with exercise.
Here’s the big question
But what I have not seen in the big one. The one question that will without a doubt make you question what your relationship to exercise is all about.
Would you still exercise if it resulted in you gaining weight?
Would you? If that was true, would you still do the same exercise and amount?
And I don’t mean weight gain that is the by-product of increased muscle mass. We’re talking weight gain that is so often looked at as a negative in society.
So, would you still exercise?
Above and beyond what your doctor would recommend for you to do, would you exercise? Do you really love Zumba? Are you truly a runner at heart?
I believe the true way to find out if your relationship with exercise is healthy and is for health is to decide if you would continue to do the activity if it wasn’t linked to weight loss or that “bikini body”.
Think about it this way…
Do you really run for the endorphins and the fun of it?
Is lifting weights really about clearing your mind and strengthening your bones? Do you truly lift weights because you like to and it helps you when you have to carry the groceries into the house?
Would you spend the same amount of time doing the exercise you “love” if it didn’t have the same body shaping outcomes?
Would you go for that run, to that class or to the mat, if instead of burning calories you were adding them? Or instead adding a pimple, a birth mark, a hang nail? Would you?
People eat donuts not because they add to their health, not like popping a vitamin, but because they like them. They truly enjoy them.
We don’t force ourselves to eat donuts when we don’t want to because they don’t bring us physical health. We eat them because they bring us mental health.
The side effects balance out the positive effects of pleasure. We eat the vegetables our doctor tells us to and once that baseline of health is reached we play with the rest to our preferences.
Treat exercise the same way. It is not a punishment.
Maintain the baseline level of exercise your health care professional suggests (if any, abstaining from exercise is nothing to be ashamed of!) and anything on top of that is purely for you.
If you find yourself rolling down the slippery slope of using exercise to control you body – STOP. That means it’s time to evaluate what outcomes are really enticing you to do it.