Physical Activity Changes Mindset

Mackenzie Bill, asst. opinions editor

I’ve never been someone who jumps with joy when hearing the word “exercise.” 

I used to grimace at this word because I associated it with uncomfortable and unenjoyable activities. I thought exercise meant doing the mile run in PE, or being dragged to a kickboxing class with my mom.

In reality, I learned that physical activity should be something that makes us feel fulfilled and rejuvenated and that it can look different for everyone.

After my tennis season ended this school year, I was in a rut. Being in the pattern of playing tennis every day helped me destress and clear my mind, but I wouldn’t always search for a similar opportunity to be active outside of my sport season. 

I realized that I appreciate physical activity in my life because it helps me unpack my day and has helped with my focus in school. In fact, physical activity can improve academic performance and cognitive functioning, World Health Organization said.

So, I decided to reflect on what I genuinely enjoy doing that includes movement. 

I love walking my dog with my sister or following a quick yoga video online, even though I may be the least flexible person I know. I love going on runs with my friend on the weekend or on my late arrival days.

I also love variety in my physical activity. Some days I’ll cycle or even lift weights. Changing up what kind of exercise I do keeps me engaged and prevents me from feeling burnt out.

By choosing to be physically active in a way that I love, I learned that exercise should be something that I want to do, not something that I think I should do.  

Physical activity also has benefits that have impacted me in different aspects of my life. Physical activity generates brain chemicals like endorphins that can leave you feeling happier, more relaxed, and less anxious, Mayo Clinic said.

 The combination of the fulfillment I feel from exercising to the mental clarity it gives me as a de-stressor has created a pattern for me.

I have even found a way to find purpose in my movement in gym class. I am in Total Body Conditioning, and although the name may sound daunting, it’s truly been a class that has helped me transform my view of exercise from focusing on how I look to how I feel. My teacher encourages us to take things at our own individual pace and to focus on the progress we’ve made in the class in terms of mental strength. We’ve done exercises that vary from strength workouts to yoga by the pool to simply walking around the track, and taking each activity at my own pace has helped me find passion and motivation in what we’re doing.

Through my Total Body Conditioning class, I learned that everyone should move their body in a way that is comfortable and appropriate for them.

I don’t know the story of the person next to me. And they don’t necessarily know or understand my story.

Because of that, I have found respect for everyone because we are all in different parts of our physical activity journey.

Now, I try to view my progress as the little ways I have pushed myself, whether that be in a workout or my state of mind, not necessarily the physical results. 

Breaking down exercise to view it as something that makes your body and mind feel strong and clear is essential; without that perspective, motivation can lack.

By prioritizing time for myself every day to purposefully move my body, I have found a drastic change in my stress levels and a clearer mind. I’ve also learned that, through navigating my own interests, exercise looks different for everyone, and that physical activity can be multifaceted. 

It’s important to acknowledge that everyone is on their own journey of physical activity and doing what makes them feel good. I hope that you find some way each day, even if it’s for a short amount of time, to purposefully move your body in a way that makes you feel fulfilled.