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Exercise improves all modalities of your wellbeing

In the vlog entry for Wellness vs Fitness I mentioned the 8 selves that create your overarching state of wellbeing. Let’s consider how physical fitness can influence each of them positively. As I said in the video, “If you think of wellness as a web, then plucking it in one part creates reverberations across the rest.”

Physical Wellness

The physical self is the one that gets most of the attention concerning the benefits of personal training. Activity obviously improves strength, conditioning, and flexibility. It also helps your body to fight off infectious diseases. Perhaps more importantly, exerting yourself also improves the plasticity of the nervous system. This helps to develop balance, coordination, agility, and power. But exercise isn’t only training for muscles, bones, connective tissue, and the cardiovascular system. Its benefits spill over into the rest of our lives.

Intellectual Wellness

Mentally, physical activity also increases discipline, focus, and alertness by filling the body with hormones and pheromones that improve cerebral functioning. You will have improved clarity, and can also feel inspired after a good workout. According to a plain language article by Christopher Bergland at Psychology Today, this is because of irisin, a molecule that improves cognition and protects the brain from degeneration (Cell Metabolism, Wrann et al). The stereotype that sports makes people stupid couldn’t be more inaccurate. Although there are some people who bulldoze thoughtlessly through life by way of sheer brute force, there are also so many other people who are more thoughtful as a result of personal training.

Emotional Wellness

As a direct result of these hormonal responses that help intellectual acuity, emotional balance can also improve. Exercise is particularly good at relieving stress. Many people report feeling relief from depression or anger, so fitness also relieves symptoms for anxiety, ADHD, and stress. The folks at published an excellent plain language article describing many of ways exercise benefits emotional health. Innercise helps, too. I highly recommend Janet Jackson’s memoir, as it is a very honest self evaluation of destructive behavior.

Psychological Wellness

I like to make a distinction between emotional and psychological wellness, though most would conflate them together. In my mind the difference is that emotions are the specific moods and feelings that influence the way we see ourselves and interact with others in a particular moment, whereas psychological wellness is a broader description of trends in our personalities. With that differentiation in mind, I would posit that feeling confident one day but not as much on another (as opposed to generally having good confidence) isn’t quite the same. Or another example: Someone with Malignant Personality Disorder can smile and laugh one moment, but then lash out the next. These vacillating moods are present at different times, but the underlying disease is constantly undermining their wellbeing throughout.

Fitness often improves confidence and can alleviate feelings of self loathing. But it can also trip over into being a negative obsession, so balance is important. Dr. Shahram Heshmet succinctly describes the faulty thought patterns that are common amongst those who develop Body Dysmorphic Disorder. On balance, exercise improves psychological wellness by alleviating the negative emotions that contribute to long term conditions and disorders.

Social Wellness

Social wellness describes the quality of the connections we make with others. You don’t have to be a rampaging social butterfly to have good social wellness. I would argue strongly that it’s healthier to have only a select few friends, as opposed to dozens of friendly acquaintances. How does exercise figure in this? Like attracts like: If you are healthy, engaging, happy, and well adjusted, you will connect with others who value the same. This becomes a feedback loop with many benefits to your wellbeing.

Spiritual Wellness

This isn’t necessarily religious fervor. Your sense of purpose, your place within the world, and your value system flow from spiritual wellness. You don’t have to define it in any particular way, and you might not even consider it a form of spirituality. For my purposes, let’s agree that your definitions of morality, justice, and consequence form the basis of your spirituality (regardless of how you formally or informally practice it).

In many religions, the body itself is a temple. Keeping it strong and healthy is a form of worship and an expression of thanksgiving. If you don’t connect with that logic, then consider that exercise prepares you to take action when others need help. Do you help Habitat for Humanity build houses for the poor? Do you carry anything to help with charities that distribute supplies? Let’s say you see someone who needs help: Can you pull them to safety in an emergency? A fit body can be an extension of good will.

Sexual Wellness

Regardless of the time or place, the perception of beauty has three essential components: Symmetry, proportion, and clarity. There are myriad expressions or values that influence perceptions of it; however, these three underlying traits are practically universal.

Physical fitness implies health and strength. These together imply good genes. Good genes are the ones to keep in the pool. It really is that simple

Sexual gratification is imperative to wellbeing, but sex appeal doesn’t just help with getting busy in bed. It can keep you busy financially, too.

Financial Wellness

Attractive people on average make more money than their plain counterparts in similar jobs with similar education and experience. Period. Physically they appear stronger and more energetic or ambitious, giving the (sometimes false) impression they will be harder workers. Depending on the situation, attractive people are often presumed to be more honest and knowledgable. Their appeal has often given them more opportunities emotionally to feel confidant, and to project confidence psychologically and socially. In turn, they generally have easier times meeting people, so their socializing skills reinforce the rest. Being sexually desirable gives the perception that everyone else will want them, so they can demand higher fees and wages from potential employers, and then tend to be promoted more quickly. Exercise undergirds and reinforces all this.

Another consideration is that people who exercise are generally healthier. They are more likely to avoid expensive doctor visits and hospital procedures. They also tend to avoid the costs of medicines. That is money and debt they can avoid. So exercisers not only have the potential to earn more money, they can keep more of it out of the bottomless pit that is American “health” “care.” (Yes, each word got its own aggressive quotation marks.)

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Jack Kirven is a mobile personal trainer in Charlotte, NC. He is the owner of INTEGRE8T Wellness.

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