Loving You: Regular Exercise

Consider this as the sun rises or starts to set: put on your favorite workout gear, tie up those sneakers, and get moving. Regular exercise is about more than just maintaining physical health. It can also play a decisive role in boosting body confidence and promoting mental well-being. Whether pushing your limits with high-intensity interval training or finding your zen with a calm yoga practice, movement can help transform how you perceive your body.

Many of us experience occasional dips in body confidence or a sense of dissatisfaction with how we look. We might fixate on perceived flaws and must remember to acknowledge our body’s strengths and capabilities. This is where regular exercise can shift the narrative, helping us appreciate our bodies for what they can do rather than just how they look.

Science provides a solid backing for the connection between exercise and increased body confidence. A study published in the Journal of Health Psychology in 2018 found that regular physical activity leads to improved body image, regardless of body size or shape changes. In other words, the confidence boost doesn’t stem from changes in appearance but rather from exercising.

Take James, a middle-aged accountant from New York. After years of desk-bound work, he felt disconnected from his body and struggled with self-esteem. Inspired by a friend, James decided to start running regularly. Initially, he could barely manage a few blocks without losing breath. But as he continued to lace up his shoes daily, he noticed changes—not in his physical appearance, but in how he felt about his body. He felt more robust, more energetic, and capable. He began to appreciate his body’s resilience and ability to adapt and improve.

It’s important to remember that everyone’s journey with exercise is unique. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. You may love a spin class’s adrenaline rush, the forest hike’s peacefulness, or the weight training challenge. What matters is that you’re moving in a way that feels good, respects your body’s limits, and contributes to your overall well-being.

As Dr. Joan Duda, a sport and exercise psychologist at the University of Birmingham, says, “Physical activity can provide a context in which we learn to persevere, to develop discipline. It allows us to experience success, to improve our health, to develop a sense of feeling in control, and that can transfer to other domains of life, including how we feel about ourselves.”

With this in mind, consider regular exercise’s role in your life. It’s more than just a commitment to physical health—it’s an act of self-care that can lead to a deeper appreciation for your body. 

The journey towards body confidence is ongoing, filled with good days and bad. Every step, stretch, and bead of sweat can be a testament to your body’s abilities, helping you feel more comfortable and confident in your skin.

In what ways has regular exercise affected your body confidence and self-perception? What other strategies have you found helpful on your journey toward loving and respecting your body? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.