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Breaking Barriers: Physical Activity as a Tool Against Negative Body Image

We are all constantly haunted by unrealistic societal expectations on how we ought to look through social media platforms and advertising, as a result of which we tend to develop a negative body image. Negative body image is like a silent storm that can wreak havoc on one's life. It can have far-reaching effects on both our mental and physical wellbeing from low-self esteem to eating disorders.This is an issue that affects people of all ages, genders and backgrounds. It is more crucial than ever to combat these negative perceptions of ourselves. One powerful tool in this battle is physical activity.

Physical activity is a catalyst for personal transformation. This transformation goes way beyond just the physical but also extending to one's mental and emotional wellbeing. In this article, we explore how physical activity breaks down the barriers of negative body image and fosters a positive self-image.

There are many ways physical activity has the power to liberate individuals from the suffocating grip of negative body image. Some of the ways it helps:

1. Foster Appreciation for the Body

By engaging in physical activity, we shift our focus from appearance to function. It teaches us to start appreciating our body's capabilities and strengths, making it easier to love and respect it. Feeling your muscles work, your heart beat, and your breath synchronise with movement reminds you that your body is a marvel, regardless of how it looks.

2. Build Confidence

Taking part in yoga, running, swimming, weightlifting or any other sort of physical activity builds confidence. As you achieve milestones and conquer physical challenges, you prove to yourself that your body is capable of incredible feats. This new found confidence extends beyond the gym or yoga mat, influencing how you perceive yourself in everyday life.

3. Reduce Stress and Anxiety

It is a natural stress reliever. The release of endorphins, often referred to as "feel-good hormones," during exercise can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. When you feel less stressed and anxious, you're better equipped to cultivate a positive self-image (1,4).

4. Foster Mind-Body Connection

It encourages mindfulness. Whether you're focusing on your breath during yoga or tuning into your body's cues while running, you develop a deeper connection with yourself. This connection can help you become more attuned to your body's needs and less influenced by external pressures (4).

5. Encourage Self-Care

When you prioritise time for exercise, you send a message to yourself that you deserve care and attention. This shift towards self-care extends to other aspects of life, reinforcing the idea that you deserve to treat yourself with kindness and respect (3).

The Journey to a Positive Body Image

It's important to recognize that the journey to a positive body image is unique to each individual. While physical activity can be a transformative tool, it's not a panacea. It's just one piece of the puzzle.

Embracing a positive body image often requires a combination of self-reflection, self-compassion, and support from loved ones. It involves challenging societal norms and rejecting unrealistic beauty standards. It's about acknowledging that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and that our worth goes far beyond our appearance.

Physical activity can be a catalyst for change, a means to cultivate self-love and appreciation for one's body. It can provide a safe space to challenge negative thoughts and celebrate achievements, both big and small. But ultimately, it's about more than just the physical; it's about nurturing our mental and emotional wellbeing.

Negative body image is a formidable adversary, but it's one that can be conquered. Physical activity serves as a weapon in this battle, empowering individuals to shift their focus from appearance to capability, from self-doubt to self-confidence.

The journey to a positive body image is deeply personal and ongoing, but with the support of physical activity and a commitment to self-love, it's a journey that can lead to a place of acceptance, celebration, and profound wellbeing. In a world obsessed with image, we have the power to redefine beauty and embrace the uniqueness of our own bodies.

About the author

Amrita Kaur is a health and wellbeing intern at Actxa Wellness. She is currently pursuing

her Master of Public Health from Griffith university and is passionate about educating people on how they can improve their Health.


1. ADAA. Physical Activity Reduces Stress. Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

2. Mansi Kohli. (2011, Nov) How Exercise Boosts Confidence. Indiatimes.

3. Michelle Murdolo. Why Exercise is Self-Care. Mather Hospital.

4. René Phongam. (2018, Nov). A Different Perspective on Exercise: Body-Mind Connection. Medium.


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