Exercising and living an active lifestyle has always had a positive connotation towards fitness and mood. With more advancement in technology and research, we’re coming to see the correlation between exercising and its significant effects on mental health. As a weightlifter for the past three years, I’ve come to find that weightlifting is an activity that requires tremendous confidence, motivation, and perseverance. Not only does it impact the body physically, it mentally challenges one to constantly attempt objectives and set new goals.
I am in my final year of high school and I can confidently say that choosing to live an active lifestyle has changed my life. Growing up, I did not have high self-esteem, nor did I have the confidence to be like other children my age. I wasn’t interested in the same sports as many boys at my age, I was picked last during games, I wasn’t seen as an equal. I didn’t know that I was treated differently because I thought that I was genetically made to be the way I am. During my first year of high school, I decided that I’d turn a new leaf and become an active member of our school’s sports program. Though I wasn’t very successful during my first year of high school within sports, I was very eager in physically improving myself.
I didn’t think of the popularity that would come with being a star athlete or the girls or even the possible award for athlete of the year. I started with a goal to improve myself as much as I could while attempting it at my pace. With guidance from my fitness teachers and role models, I pursued weightlifting as a sport and started to work out 5 times a week. Using information about nutrition and proper workout routines, I started to develop an interest in the science of athletics and the process on how to trigger physical and emotional changes within yourself using athletics.
The dictionary definition of “mental health” is a person’s condition about their psychological and emotional well-being. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, self-esteem is the final level before reaching self-actualization. However, in my opinion, a goal cannot be fulfilled without the right attitude, mindset, and confidence. I’d firmly argue that mental health is the most important factor towards finding one's potential and purpose in life. By living an active lifestyle, you are choosing to commit towards being as healthy and conscious as you can be.
Over the last few years, there has been numerous studies and research projects about the effects on mental health by active lifestyles. Weight lifting, itself, is a branch of athletics which is a great way to let out stress, anxiety and cope with mental illnesses. You don’t have to be lifting to be Mr. Olympia or to participate in bodybuilding competitions. By working out for 2-3 times a week for an hour to an hour and a half by performing moderate lifting and cardio you can have highly effective physical gains and experience stress reduction. Another great way to continuously stay motivated is to work out with a partner who has similar lifestyles, goals, and mentality as yours. It will challenge you both to stay focused and to push one another towards striving for success.
Possibly the most important factor that can affect your physical and mental strength is proper nutrition. The food you put into your body represents your lifestyle and is the fuel for your workouts. If you’re putting junk into your body, which you’re vigorously working out, how do you think your body is going to respond? You need to treat your body with the same, if not more respect and dedication as your workout routines. In terms of fitness, Carbohydrates are essential for quick accessible energy, which can be used pre/post workouts and throughout the day. Protein is the building block for muscle and strong bones, which helps you repair muscle tears, grow more layers of muscle and make your bones stronger. Overall, nutrition is not only good for your success physically but also mentally. It’s not wrong rewarding yourself with treats from time to time, but you can’t lose the balance between intense workouts and proper diet.
Weight lifting and general fitness have not only positively changed my life, in terms of academic success and mental health, but have positively impacted others who’ve also chosen to follow in my footsteps. In my final year of high school, I am an active role model within the athletic department and during my spare period, volunteer to assist fitness classes with their daily activities. I enjoy being able to share my experience and my expertise with the younger students. I wish someone older would have reached out to me sooner when I was young to share how an active healthy can make you mentally and physically stronger. With this experience, I’m able to help high schools students who may look up to me as a leader or role model in the school community so I’m able to set a positive example for them. Every challenge, task, and obstacle can be achieved and overcome by the right attitude, perseverance and hard work.
By: Hari Mahendran