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Today there are many magazines giving us tips on how to “get the perfect bum” or how to look like a certain celebrity. The “norms” of a body image have been set at a certain picture for years, and lucky for us, this is starting to change. Men and women’s picture of what is healthy has started to change from runway “perfection”, to strong and powerful, emphasising positive body love and confidence and shying away from negativity and hate. This is by far a healthier way for one to view themselves and not to try fit within a norm.

So what is a healthy body image?  Body image is the perception that one has of their own body and how this affects their self-esteem. Today men and women are put under huge amounts of pressure to look a certain way, and they go through many different fad diets and training programs to get there. A poor body image can be very harmful to the individual, and it can lead to eating disorders and exercise addictions.

It’s important to start off with the fact that there is no one perfect body, and rather the knowledge that there are millions of different bodies and shapes. So how can exercise help to reinforce a healthy body image? There are many studies that show that individuals that are active tend to have a healthier body image than individuals that are not, and this is whether they lose weight or not, but rather about how they feel. People who are active tend to feel stronger, are more motivated and feel healthier compared to those who are not. If one has a poor body image, they tend to be less motivated to exercise, change habits or feel strong and healthy. There are also conflicting reports that show that individuals that have poor body image tend to use this to train hard to help them change their appearance and are doing exercise for a specific goal, instead of training for added psychological benefits. This then leads to them fixating on a specific goal for external purposes, such as looking better, and not because they love to train.

Exercise has many benefits, other than weight loss and muscle building. It helps to release endorphins, which help to increase your mood, relieve stress, increases energy, improves fitness, and increased satisfaction of one’s self. All of these help to improve one’s overall feeling of health, strength, and one’s body image.

For exercise to help one achieve a more positive body image it is important to stick to a plan, and choose a form of exercise that you love. If you are taking part in a form of exercise that you deem boring or an obligation, the chances of you sticking with it is unlikely. Look at exercising either 10-20 minutes per day or 30-60 minutes 3-4 times per week. If you are wanting to feel strong and healthy, try to include some weights, try Pilates, or join a functional weights class once a week. If you are wanting to feel energetic and boost your mood, try taking up jogging or a spinning class. Getting your blood flowing will leave you feeling on top of the world once you are done.  You can also change certain habits to help increase your energy. Things such as taking the stairs, instead of the lifts, walking during your lunch break, instead of sitting at a desk and waking up to do a 10 minute routine, instead of hitting that snooze button. Even the little things can help to get you motivated, feeling healthy and ultimately happier.

One’s mind set can also play a large role in how one see’s themselves. In this regard it is important to include positive talk, focus on your ability and what your body can do. One needs to accept that bodies come in all different shapes and different sizes. Changing one’s body to fit into a “norm”, will only lead to a negative space, and is an unrealistic expectation.

Try remove the thought of a set body size and love yourself. Work towards a goal that you can reach, that you love to take part in, and that you will be proud to achieve. You will feel happier for it in the end.