Why It's Important to Exercise for Health not Aesthetics

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Photo © Melody Jacob 

Everywhere in the media, there are images of the perfect bodies. We are comparing ourselves with photoshopped thigh gaps on magazine covers and blemish free skin. We are sighing at the most recent post from a perfectly tanned and thin shaped Instagram model; all the while we are yearning to look and feel as perfect as these images appear.

There is no perfect body. This avenue of thinking is detrimental to self-image and self-worth, which is already a huge issue for women. In a society where the value is being measured by how curvy you are and how small your waist is, we need to adopt new ways of thinking.

One way to understand this approach to improving your self-image is to focus on function over form. Every moment, your body is working just for you. It is carrying out complex processes which allow you to digest food, walk, feel, communicate, be creative and rest.

The more you focus on the complexities of your body rather than how you look, the healthier you will become. Both negative and positive thoughts directly impact health and function.

When you focus on function, you can positively connect your body with sentimental and significant moments in your life. We take these functions for granted every day but instead, we should be amazed and grateful. Without arms, you cannot hug your children or partner. You can use your smile or a helping hand to brighten someone's day.

Even body fat serves an important purpose. Body fat is not clinging to you with the goal of ruining your day. It is there to make sure you stay energised throughout the day. It protects our organs and is required by our cells to produce hormones. It provides warmth for our bodies when needed. Fat is necessary for reproduction. Women who are underweight have difficulty with ovary function. For each complex element, there is a list of reasons why you should love your body.

Hopefully, through this approach, you will begin to see changes in the way you perceive your body. It is called body image, but this doesn't mean how you should view your body. A healthy body image includes feeling good about what you already have, thinking positively about yourself and behaving in a way that reflects these positive thoughts and feelings. This will lead to self-acceptance and self-respect.

If you focus on function over form, a little weight gain or a bad hair day will be less likely to hinder your fitness and health. That is, if you keep a strong mind, moving past negative moments will be easier. It's okay to feel insecure sometimes. It happens to everyone – even your co-worker you think is so perfect she couldn't possibly have self-esteem problems. But it's true. Every woman struggles with this. Don't let your insecurities or setbacks define you.

No one is perfect. You are beautiful, and you are enough. If you are exercising and dieting to look flawless in a bikini, you are doing it for the wrong reason. It's time to exercise for the sake of health - not with the goal of looking like someone you are not.