Exercising for vanity vs. exercising for health

A Fit Mess
March 31, 2017

What motivates you to exercise? Have you considered the reasons why you choose to workout? Today I’m tackling a topic that I find myself thinking about more and more these days: exercising for vanity vs. exercising for overall health. To be honest, as I started this post my thoughts were a bit all over the place, but I’ve tried to focus on the main points I want to get across. I definitely have an opinion or two on the matter, and although you may not agree with me, I am speaking from my own experience and perspective.


I’m willing to bet that many people workout in order to look a certain way. In fact, I think appearance is probably one of the top reasons we take that first step into the gym. Of course, this is only one piece of the equation. It takes a combination of diet, exercise, and many other lifestyle factors to positively influence your overall health.


It’s worth acknowledging that while physical appearance may be a top reason for people to start exercising – it’s the other health benefits that keep us coming back.


For me, exercise is part of my lifestyle. While I might have been motivated by appearance when I was younger (and had NO clue that fitness was anything more than running on the treadmill), I now understand the positive effect exercise has, not only on the outside, but on my mental health, productivity, overall well-being, and relationships.


Exercise can often be viewed as an activity that is done solely for the sake of vanity. Frequent gym-goers may be seen as overly concerned about their appearance and narcissistic. Or some may view exercise as a punishment or as a way to offset other unhealthy behaviors. Please don’t mistake – I am not talking about those who struggle with eating disorders. If you are suffering from a health or exercise disorder, I encourage you to seek help right away. In this post, I’m discussing the connection between exercising for your appearance and exercising for your overall health. It’s fair to say these don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You can choose to workout in order to achieve a certain physical appearance as well as to gain the health benefits that result from exercise.


What’s my point? Exercise is so much more than a means to a good butt or killer abs. And while I certainly acknowledge that some may be purely motivated by appearance (totally fine, as long as you don’t struggle with an eating disorder or get self-critical about yourself), understanding and acknowledging the deeper benefits to exercise will help you continue on your healthy habits.

Some of my favorite benefits of regular exercise include:

  • Mental sharpness and clarity – I am so much more productive personally and professionally on the days when I’ve worked out. Running helps me break through mental blocks and lifting will inevitably increase my confidence and focus.
  • Manage anxiety and stress – I definitely turned a corner in my mental health when I began to consistently exercise. Fitness helps me manage stressful occasions, sort through personal problems, and keep anxiety at bay. One thing I really appreciate about my therapist is that whenever we meet she checks to make sure I’m exercising regularly.
  • Helps with aging and extends your lifetime – I’m sure you’ve seen these super-agers. They’re older individuals who appear and act much younger than their age. Not only are they active and healthy, but they’re smart, perceptive people. In other words, they are aging well and extending their quality of life.
  • Keeps health conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis in check – Since I had gestational diabetes during my last pregnancy, I am more likely to develop type 2 diabetes down the road. Exercise helps regulate blood sugar levels and supports thyroid function. My family also has a history of heart disease (my mother and my grandmother both died of a heart attack at age 40) so I make it a priority to keep my body strong and healthy.
  • Offers a way to show yourself some love – Exercise is enjoyable for me. Sure, it’s hard as hell at times, but I never regret it. And I always feel better afterwards. Taking time out for activity gives me a break from my day, but it’s more than that. It can reset a bad attitude, challenge you physically and mentally, and it’s a way to show your body that you are invested it in long term.


I would love to know what your thoughts are on this subject.

Thank you for reading!



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