A healthy lifestyle offers more than just a six pack. Liz Costigan outlines why regular exercise and healthy eating is about more than just how we look..
Everyone is either on the healthy lifestyle buzz, talking about getting on it or feeling bad because they aren’t. Clean eating and WOD’s (workout of the day) are everywhere, with photos of slender figures and sweaty six packs a constant feature on social media. And while there is nothing wrong with trying to improve our bodies –who doesn’t love the feeling of sliding on a pair of jeans without the frantic wrestle, it’s fabulous – it shouldn’t be the sole focus. There are tonnes of reasons why exercise and a healthy life is the healthy choice. By healthy life, I mean a balanced one. As Oscar Wilde so beautifully put it, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” Those who choose inactivity and junk food are just as unhealthy as those who over train and are obsessive about food.
Moderation and balance give us the best chance of achieving a healthy life.
So, let’s try to move beyond the quest for the perfect beach body for a moment and see why living the healthier way really is so much more than six packs and sweating.
1. CONFIDENCE & RESPECT
We tend to forget how wonderful our bodies really are, regularly inflicting abuse and asking far so much in return. Isn’t it time for us to give back a little? Time to move, nourish and care more about our beautiful bodies.
When you live healthier, you become more in tune with your body. Witnessing the amazing feats body your can achieve can massively impact your confidence. Doesn’t it feel great to set a goal and accomplish it? Achieving something you never thought you would. Most people who begin exercising never imagine themselves being anything but a beginner. With time and effort, you will get fitter and healthier. Your body will astound you. Its’ abilities, strength and resilience will give you a heightened sense of self-esteem and a respect for your body that is incredible valuable.
Lacing up your runners is probably the last thing you feel like doing when feeling sluggish or tired, I totally get that. However, breaking a sweat raises your metabolism and increases dopamine in the body which naturally helps you feel less tired.
When I feel like I just don’t have the energy or will, I try to focus on how I will feel afterwards. Other times I will try to block what I have to do out of my mind because I risk overthinking myself onto the couch! Just go, drag yourself out there, I promise you will have more energy coming back.
Of course there are times when you are totally shattered and just can’t do it – trust me, that’s ok too! Part of being healthy is listening to your body, learning about how it works and adapting to that. We are in this for the long haul and there will be tough days because, well, that’s life! But every day is a new day, another chance to learn and build on what you did yesterday, ultimately getting you stronger and more body aware.
3. FOR HEALTH’S SAKE
Probably one of the most important reasons to exercise, yet the one we take for granted the most is that it really does improve your health. When you work out, look for the food and drink you consume, as well as practice self-care, you tend to get sick less. Exercise boosts and supports the immune system, so your body is better equip to fight off those nasty germs.
Exercise and a healthy diet can also reduce the risk of developing many serious illnesses like heart disease, certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes and stroke. It goes without saying that when you feel well, you live well. When you’re fit and healthy, life can be enjoyed to the full.
4. STRESS BUSTER
Exercise also reduces stress levels – a brisk walk during lunch hour can totally change your perspective and clear you mind. Regular walking breaks really should be a health and safety precaution in the workplace! And don’t forget those happy chemicals that give you that overall healthy, happy buzz.
5. BETTER ZZZ’S
Studies have shown that people who regularly exercise fall asleep faster and wake up less often during the night than people who are sedentary. When I haven’t been exercising regularly, I definitely notice the difference in the quality of my sleep. And, let’s face it, who doesn’t wake up wanting to take over the world after a good night’s sleep! Making healthy food choices, working out and facing challenges during your day is much easier to do when you are well rested.
6. STRONG BODY, STRONG MIND
Instantly when we talk about strength we think of weight training and muscles. It’s true that resistance training is a great way to burn fat, sculpt your body and strengthen your muscles but how can we muster up the courage and motivate ourselves to do any of this if our minds aren’t strong enough? Feeding your body and your brain with the right foods will help strengthen and improve your mental health. We have all experienced the feelings that over indulgence in alcohol, sugar and toxic foods leave us with -lethargy, sluggishness and often fear!
Eating foods that nourish your body on a deep level will allow your cells to thrive giving you mental clarity and strength. You feel great and are capable of making healthy choices that are conducive to a balanced, fulfilled life. And don’t forget the confidence we spoke about, a positive self-image has a huge impact on your mental wellbeing.
I like to think of exercise as so much more than shaping your body, there are incredible psychological, emotional and – depending on the form of exercise – spiritual benefits that can be achieved. This is what keeps me coming back again and again. Being focused on the external alone – on rock solid abs or the numbers on the scales- can be frustrating. These things fluctuate and we all know that. Our bodies are changing constantly and it is hard to keep focused and motivated on something that is ever changing.
Goals are key in remaining motivated, but our ambitions are deeper than just the physical body. Seeing a change in your body is such a wonderful motivation, I wholeheartedly encourage that, but just be aware that your body form is ever changing, whether we like it or not!
Having a balanced approach is the key to long-term success. Understanding how your body works, accepting and working with it really worked for me. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy, work out with friends, take classes that are fun. Exercise doesn’t have to be torture; it isn’t a punishment. Learn about food and how it can nourish and allow your body to thrive. Don’t punish your body with exercise and bad food because you hate it, create a healthy lifestyle beacause you love your body.
Our image.ie Running Club with Liz, in collaboration with The Marker Hotel, kicks off on April 13th.