Exercise and Identity

Our personal identities are the lenses through which we view ourselves and interact with the world. They shape our beliefs, behaviours, and decisions in countless ways, including how we approach our health. Personal identity formation can bolster or hinder our health behaviours. The good news is you can choose to define yourself as someone who enjoys regular exercise.

Personal identity encompasses the beliefs and perceptions we hold about ourselves, reflecting who we are and who we want to be. It influences our health choices, such as diet, exercise, and stress management. Imagine you’ve decided to improve your fitness. You start by incorporating exercise into your daily routine and gradually increase your physical activity. Over time, you begin to see yourself as someone who enjoys exercise. This shift in identity can significantly bolster your health behaviors in several ways:

  1. Consistency: Identifying as an “exercise enthusiast” makes you more likely to stick to your fitness routine. Your self-image aligns with your actions, reinforcing the behavior.
  2. Motivation: A strong personal identity as someone who exercises can serve as a powerful source of motivation. You’ll be more driven to maintain your newfound identity by staying active.
  3. Resilience: When faced with setbacks or challenges, a well-defined exercise identity can help you bounce back. You’re less likely to abandon your fitness goals because they’re an integral part of who you are.

On the flip side, personal identity formation can hinder health behaviors when it’s aligned with unhealthy habits. For instance, if you’ve long seen yourself as a “non-exerciser,” it can be challenging to break free from this identity. Some obstacles you might encounter include:

  1. Self-limiting beliefs: An identity rooted in non-exercising may come with negative beliefs about fitness, making it harder to adopt healthier behaviors.
  2. Lack of motivation: When your self-image is tied to inactivity, you may struggle to find the motivation to start and sustain an exercise routine.
  3. Resistance to change: Changing your identity can be uncomfortable, leading to resistance against adopting healthier habits.

If you find that your current identity is hindering your health goals, it’s not too late to redefine it. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Set clear goals: Identify the specific health behaviors you want to change, such as regular exercise.
  2. Gradual changes: Begin by making small, sustainable changes to your behavior. Over time, these can lead to a shift in identity.
  3. Positive affirmations: Use positive self-talk and affirmations to reinforce your new identity. Tell yourself daily that you are becoming the person you want to be.
  4. Seek support: Surround yourself with a supportive community or seek professional help, like a fitness trainer or therapist, to assist in your transformation.

Personal identity formation plays a pivotal role in our health behaviors. Whether you see yourself as an “exercise enthusiast” or a “non-exerciser” can greatly impact your fitness journey. By consciously shaping your identity and aligning it with your health goals, you can harness its power to become the best, healthiest version of yourself. Remember, change is possible, and it all begins with how you define who you are.

Be well.