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For too long, exercise has been marketed to women, particularly fat women, as a tool exclusively for weight loss: a one stop shop to the ‘perfect body’, as a means to slim down in aid of the male gaze, with little consideration for the holistic and overall wellbeing of a woman’s body. As a plus size woman myself, I have sometimes found this limited idea of exercise quite triggering and difficult to process, especially when trying to reconcile the acceptance of my fat body and feelings of wanting to be healthy and happy. 

As such, I have compiled five of my favourite reasons to exercise, that have no direct correlation to weight loss, as a reminder to myself and others that exercise is important – becoming smaller isn’t.  

#1 Mental Wellbeing 

When moving your body, and getting your heart rate up, different hormones and endorphins are released that can stimulate good feelings in the brain. As such, regular exercise can help uplift moods and general wellbeing. There are a whole host of different ways in which exercise can affect the mind, but some I think are the most important include:  

  • Increased focus  
  • Less stress 
  • Better productivity  
  • Better ability to regulate emotions  
  • Less anxiety  

#2 Socialising 

If there is one thing this pandemic has taught me is that I love to walk places with people. There is nothing I want to do more in the afternoon than grab a friend or two and aimlessly walk around my little village for a while.  

Whether you want to do as much walking as me, or fancy getting a group together for something more lively, exercise is a perfect way to socialise with others, meet new friends, or catch up with those already in your life. Aberdeen University has various different sport groups and societies you can check out here  if you want to get involved.  

#3 Fun  

Exercise is fun! It really is! If someone had said this to me a year ago, I would have laughed in their face – there was no one who could convince me slogging your guts out in the gym for an hour would in any way constitute ‘fun’.  

However, my view of exercise was quite limited at that time, and once I realised that exercise is literally anything that moves your body – I felt a lot more confident, not just in my physical ability, but my ability to enjoy physical movement.  

So, whether it is hiking, sprinting, yoga or dancing, find what works for you and enjoy every second of it, life is too short to hate what you are doing to your body!  

#4 Regulate Periods  

Anyone with a functioning vagina knows the trials and tribulations of periods. Backache, nausea, cramps, headaches, muscle ache, mood swings and low productivity and all the rest of it can be a nuisance at best, and debilitating at worst.  

However, regular light exercise can help to alleviate some of these symptoms. The Office on Women’s Health note that doing light exercise for 20-30 minutes a day during your period helps to regulate your hormones – which is ultimately what controls your menstrual cycle. A reduction in cramps and mood swings are touted as the most common effects of exercise during menstruation but there have been studies that highlight a whole lot of different changes to the menstrual cycle thanks to regular exercise. They also warn that doing too much exercise can cause strain and in severe cases, cause you to lose your period all together, so make sure you are being sensible with your body while it is already at war with itself.  

Furthermore, if your PMS and period symptoms are really debilitating and causing you major distress, no amount of exercise is likely to fix that, and you have the right to speak to a health professional if you feel as though your quality of life is being dampened by your menstrual cycle.  

#5 Better Sleep  

Sleep is absolutely essential to how our bodies and brain’s function, and we must get enough (6-8 hours a night for adults) to ensure we are performing at the highest level possible. When we include regular exercise into our lives, we can better our sleep in many ways. From regulating our general sleeping pattern and making it easier to fall asleep, to allowing for deeper sleep exercise to get better sleep is an excellent reminder not all exercise is for weight loss. I especially think getting out in the fresh air can add to the benefits of exercise for sleep. Taking a walk in the afternoon and allowing yourself some time to breathe and reflect can often leave you feeling calmer, more relaxed and ready to sleep.   

So, those were my top 5 reasons for exercising that have absolutely nothing to do with weight loss – hurray to that! Let us know on our socials why you chose to exercise! 

Iona Hancock

Aberdeen '22

PGDE Primary 21/22 @ Aberdeen 1st Class Honours in Politics and IR @ Aberdeen
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