There is a growing body of research that connects people’s physical activity levels to their self-esteem. Put simply, the more you move, the better you feel about yourself.
Recent research is dedicated to taking the benefits of physical exercise one step further to determine self-esteem activities and how they impact life.
Science defines self-esteem as a sense of worth and competence. What does it say about activities that boost self-esteem?
The Direct and Indirect Relationship Between Exercise and Self-Esteem
A 2016 study published online by Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment involved 300 people ranging from ages 20 to 60, at various levels of physical fitness. The goal was to determine the direct and indirect relationship between physical activity and self-esteem.
A direct relationship would involve how this person felt about themselves before, during and after a workout such as jogging or walking. Indirect focused on the physical benefits of the exercise such as weight loss and reduced body mass index (BMI), and how that made them feel.
These researchers concluded that physical activity influenced this sampling of individuals in both ways. They determined that exercise intervention would have both a motivating and mediating impact on adults.
The Effect of Aerobic Self-Esteem Activities
A 2014 study published in the Scientific World Journal looked at the effect of aerobic exercise on women living in extreme situations. For this study, the researchers focused specifically on young Iranian women who had no family. The researchers pointed out that self-esteem is both an internal and external concept. The internal side of self-esteem includes positive thinking and the ability to set goals, while external was more about how other people saw them.
They gathered 66 orphaned girls between the ages of 13 and 19 years old and divided them into two groups: one that did aerobic exercise and one to serve as a control. Aerobic exercise is low to high-intensity activity that requires oxygen. In other words, a workout that gets the heart pumping because the body requires more oxygenation. Examples of aerobic exercise would include running, cycling, and swimming.
These researchers found that the mean self-esteem scores rose significantly in the group that did aerobics. At the beginning of the study, both groups scored low in self-esteem testing. In the end, the group that exercised had a medium score indicating a marked improvement in physical activity.
Improving Self-Esteem in Older Adults Though Strength Building Exercises
Depression is at an all-time high in the senior community — a population that is expected to double by the year 2030. The researchers in a 2011 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine estimated that the decline in self-esteem is related to decreased functional ability, which is a contributing factor in the loss of independence and quality of life.
For this study, they recruited participants from a community of older adults and designed a 12-month exercise program for them. They divided the seniors into two groups: walking and flexing-toning-balance. Each group exercised for about 50 minutes three times a week. The walking group focused specifically on raising their heart rate during their exercise sessions.
The flexing-toning-balance group engaged in only muscle toning exercises using dumbbells and resistance bands. The exercises were orchestrated to improve muscle tone and overall balance. The group leader would change out the routines every three weeks to increase the challenge and keep the participants interested.
What the researchers found at the end of their study was a significant improvement in both groups, however; the flexing-toning-balance team gained the most self-esteem points. They were able to conclude that both types of exercise were good for older individuals but strength-building has the biggest impact.
There is little doubt that being physically active matters in life. It is the best way to ward off chronic diseases including high blood pressure and diabetes. Now, studies show that it also serves to boost self-esteem in people of all ages.
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