SELF-ESTEEM & EXERCISE (RACHEL DORE, PSY.D.). 18 Jun 2013
This new column, Lithe Psych is written by Doctor of Psychology (and Lithe Instructor!), Rachel Dore. Each month, Rachel will define a clinical psych topic that is relevant to Fit Hip Healthy readers, and she'll also provide some tips that are related to achieving the overarching message of her piece. Her first post is about one of my favorite topics: Self-Esteem & Exercise!
Did you know that incorporating exercise into your life has been clinically shown to boost self-esteem?! People with higher levels of self-esteem are typically more emotionally stable and resilient to stress. Interestingly, they also set their sights higher in terms of goals and projects that they pursue and will demonstrate an admirable degree of persistence in achieving them. Lastly, self-esteem can even serve as a buffer against anxiety. Yes Please.
Exercise can promote positive changes in physical self-perceptions, which can manifest as an increase in global levels of self-esteem. Regardless of age, incorporating exercise into your activities of daily living is essential. I recently read a study published in Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport: researchers implemented an exercise program with college students, which resulted in improvement in cognitive facets of self-esteem such as self- competence. Their certainty in how accurate they were in their self-perception also increased. Most fascinating, these participants felt they were closer to their ideal version of themselves. Again… Yes Please.
Perhaps as we age, we should put more emphasis on exercise as part of one’s health regimen. The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) points to physical activity as an important factor in combating many un-loved secondary effects of menopause (such as weight gain and drastic fluctuations in mood).
A recently published study from the Journal of Behavioral Medicine examined self-esteem in older adults as a function of exercise. Specifically, they compared a group assigned to a walking-only exercise regime against a group whose exercise program focused on flexibility, muscle toning, and balance. This latter group demonstrated higher rates of improvement re: perceived strength and body attractiveness! These factors load onto physical self-worth, which directly influences self-esteem.
That said, Lithe can be a really intimidating work out. You will also notice an influx of sexy (and sculpting!) CCS series in class (especially mine!), which can definitely throw people for a loop. Just when you think you have mastered a class, the schedule changes for a new month and you are once again starting from scratch (or so it may feel).
It’s important to nurture your self-esteem in the studio just as you should in other domains of your life. Every time you hit the mat, make a note of something awesome that you did. Similarly, you should challenge yourself to do this at work, home, school… wherever your life endeavors take you.
Before you take a class, I recommend having a 2-minute check-in with yourself. Remind yourself of WHY you came to class today and try to make that reason as concrete as possible. Think about the really good thing you are about to do for your mind and body by exercising for an hour. Make it your goal to do as much of the class as possible instead of stopping completely (need a break? Opt for calf-pumps over stopping completely and collapsing onto the barre!). You will feel much better about your performance (and get more out of the class) if you stay active and can say that you tried your best.
After class, regardless of how you think you did, praise yourself for your hard work. Be kind to yourself and focus on what you could do as opposed to couldn’t do. Admire the sweat marks on your work-out gear and pay attention to what your post-workout “high” feels like. The goal is to create a positive exercise experience for yourself so that you are more likely to do it again!
Image of Lithe Instructor Rachel Dore in Stems via Dom