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Dissecting the Stigma and Expectations of Exercise

Unfortunately, society has developed this image of exercise to be intimidating, stressful, and judgmental. Reflect upon the advertisements seen for gyms, activewear, or working out products. They almost always feature thin, attractive people that obviously spend a lot of time and energy in the gym. The exercises of those models are intense, long-term, and project an expectation that other people should be working out to lose weight. People naturally internalize these images and messages, forgetting that those models are paid to appear perfect. Their career includes creating a specific beauty standard for others, which will result in people forever chasing this standard.

Consequently, individuals attempt exercises that they dread. They believe that the slim athlete featured within the commercial has abs because they tried a specific product, trainer, or workout method. Common sense is overwhelmed by the pressure to appear a certain way, and they forget that the athlete has been most likely training since elementary school. No one should feel a pressure to try an exercise that they will not love and look forward to.

For others, there is a fear to even begin working out. It is difficult to face the pressure of working out to lose weight, rather than it being a strategy to improve one’s mental and physical health. It is disappointing that many people are too afraid to even begin their health journey because they feel as if they can never live up to a specific image. They may notice this particular beauty standard within public settings, including the gym or workout courses. However, working out should not be centralized on losing weight or looking more attractive on the beach. Exercising should be promoted as a way to prioritize your health, rather than appearance.

Society also tends to apply a stigma to those who do not continuously work out, forgetting that exercise is actually a privilege. Not all people have the availability to set aside 1-2 hours per day, or fund a gym membership and supplies. Fortunately, there are ways to begin working out that do not require a hefty wallet. For instance, yoga or pilates only requires a mat. Any individual with accessibility internet can search exercising videos on Youtube, and simply follow them on their phone, laptop, or television. Remember to search for videos based on the type of exercise you will enjoy, as well as your goal. This includes potentially improving focus, mental health, self regulation, anxieties, flexibility, and muscle strength. These searches should not include quick body fat losses, bikini body workouts, or any other videos that take advantage of internalized body image issues.

Prioritize your health, and allow dangerous workout promotion to fade as you understand the actual purpose of exercise. It is about setting aside time to care for only yourself, and appreciating your mind and body as one.

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