A few weeks ago, I ran into a friend at the gym. He had just broken up with his boyfriend and said the only thing that was keeping him sane was running. If there's one thing that's certain, it's that fitness is about so much more than weight loss. To that end, we asked some of the country's leading wellness experts how exercice can empower us to live a better life.
“When we are in the state of physical superiority that only proper exercise and nutrition can bring, our bodies become impervious tanks that are better able to conquer the stressors of life. A healthy body creates an environment for growth and prosperity for our mind. Healthy, we become better able to ACT on the efforts of the mind. Exercise creates a body able to go about its essential processes with the efficiency of a stealth bomber. You walk taller and with a sense of pride in your step. A healthy body can even help mend a damaged mind, but a healthy mind can do nothing to repair a neglected body. We exercise to create a body that enhances every element of our lives. Who doesn't have time for that!? ACT RIGHT.”
Co-founder of Eboost
"Exercise is my physical and spiritual energy. I must exercise every single day, it helps relieve stress, clears my mind, stimulates my creative juices, boosts my endorphins and enhances my self-confidence. After all, feeling good and looking good will never go out of style!"
Simone de la Rue
Founder of Body by Simone
"For me, there’s nothing more empowering than feeling physically and mentally strong. When I exercise, I feel like this is the time I’m giving back to myself. It belongs to me and no one else. It really is therapy. Working up a good sweat helps you release any ager, frustration, fear or emotion that has built up inside you. The good natural endorphins kick in and you just feel amazing! I truly notice the days I don't exercise. When you exercise, you eat better, perform better and sleep better. It really can empower you to lead a more fulfilling life!"
"Exercise is not only empowering in the way that it strengthens and tones one's body, but it will also serve to raise one's awareness of how to best fuel that body with healthy food choices. We all know that we don't perform our best after a night of pizza and heavy drinking. A regular exercise routine often compels one to approach fitness in a more holistic fashion, leading to a healthier lifestyle in every way. I can't imagine anything more empowering than taking full charge of one's personal well-being on all levels."
Instructor at Flywheel
“Without regular exercise, the body loses its strength, stamina and the ability to function well. Working out can instantly boost your energy levels, relieve tension, depression, anxiety and anger! A daily workout will lead to improved blood flow, lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, improved lung capacity, an increase in HDL (good cholesterol), increased muscle strength and a decreased risk of certain cancers and heart disease. If you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, working up a good sweat can change your entire day for the better! I can't think of anything more empowering than an overall increased sense of well-being, overall health, energy and self esteem, all derived from exercising!”
Instructor at SoulCycle
"Exercise, hands down, is the number one prescribed medicine for many things including depression, anxiety, obesity, paranoia and fear. It has been my mission for over 25 years to make exercise as empowering as possible. When the serotonin levels in the bloodstream rise, the dopamine and the norepinephrine jump on board too. And you are IMMEDIATELY transported into happiness. Come and find me at SoulCycle and let's get it poppin'!"
"Exercise is a great way to feel stronger in mind, body and emotionally, which leads to feelings of control over one's life, which leads to feeling empowered in one's choices. There are many scientific reasons behind this, for example, exercise releases endorphins in your body which help elevate your mood, diminish pain in the body and reduce anxiety. Regular exercise also leads to better self image, increases energy levels and better sleep. This is all on top of all the health benefits of exercise, better blood pressure, stronger bones, stronger heart, decrease in depression just to name a few. All of these positive effects combine together to create the desire to keep leading a healthy lifestyle. Just as a body in motion stays in motion, simple healthy choices maintain and create a better life."
"The presence of confidence is key to being successful. When you look good and feel good, confidence is inevitable. One hour of training four to five times a week is more than possible and when you make fitness a priority, you are only setting yourself up for greatness."
"Exercise is critical not only for physical health, but for mental health and overall productivity. Running on the treadmill (with good music blaring through my headphones) is like therapy for me. It clears out any angst and once my endorphins get that boost I feel so much better, more capable, determined and confident. Lifting weights makes me physically stronger and makes me feel stronger too — as though I can handle whatever comes at me. Any good physical exercise makes me a happier person, and when I feel better, I'm more productive and creative."
Image: Mark Cuddihee
Founder of Phat Buddha
"For me, working out is not just a physical exercise; yoga especially has empowered my mind, body and spirit. I am able to approach every aspect of my life with more compassion, patience and determination."
"Fitness is the catalyst to an incredible domino effect in the body. From your first physical movement, the brain fires into action and releases mood-enhancing endorphins. With consistency, the body transforms and you can see and feel the difference. When you look better and, more importantly, feel better, you will walk into any room with incredible confidence and own it. Remember to always aim for progress, not perfection!"
"Fitness is a cure all! You're having a bad day? put it into your work out. Your having a great day? Put it into your work out. You can use an emotion/ excuse to NOT want to go to the gym but in all actuality its the one thing that's going to make it better. It's an hour out of your day where you can leave your problems at the door or you can use your problems to motivate you. You can meditate, sweat, scream and even cry....It's all ok because once that hour is over, as long as you gave it your all, everything else just seems a bit more manageable. To quote Elle Woods 'exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands, they just don't.'"
"The power of a fitness program and specifically a community driven musically inspired discipline like a hot yoga class or soulcycle class is that it is truly an inner and outer workout - you CHALLANGE yourself and get to know your most authentic self within a kula (like minded community), which is a beautiful way to grow. You get stronger and sharper and brighter!"
Celebrity personal trainer and founder of WILLSPACE NY
"The best way to instantly change the way you feel is to move your body. It’s hard staying depressed when you’re roundhouse kicking a punching bag or when you’re thrusting a medicine ball 10 feet into the air. When you feel proud about your body, you live life at a completely different level. You are a better lover, parent, friend and leader. Our emotions and personal will, like our muscles, can be sculpted by movement. The more you condition your body and mind against resistance, the stronger it gets and the more it can handle, but most importantly, the more you can give."
Instructor at Revolve
“Fitness has imparted a level of body awareness that has helped me move through different stages of my life, be it as an insecure teenager or a pregnant twin mom-to-be or a Senior Master Instructor for an NYC fitness studio. I know my body, its capabilities and its limits. That is powerful because it lets me live a holistic life where I can focus my energy on not just myself and fitness, but everything and everyone around me.”
MS, RD, Brick New York: CrossFit Level 1 trainer and nutritionist
"One of my favorite motivational quotes related to fitness is, 'You are so much stronger than you think you are.' Once we truly grasp what we are capable of in our fitness, we realize that what we are capable of is actually limitless. If we can come to this conclusion in fitness, we can transfer it to all aspects of our lives. You are so much more capable than you think you are, my friends!"
Founder of AKT INMOTION
"When you make fitness a lifestyle, you can empower yourself in ways you never thought possible. In addition to meeting your weight loss goals and physically looking better, you will experience increased circulation, more energy, a desire to eat healthier and feel better, and you'll up your happiness factor after those endorphins kick in! Plus, you'll open yourself up to a new community that will support and encourage you toward your health and fitness goals."
Program director at The Ranch at Live Oak / Malibu
"We all know on some level that exercise is beneficial for us as we have all the kinesthetic data about how it makes our circulatory and respiratory systems more efficient, reduces stress, encourages better body fat to muscle ratios, etc. But the act of exercise also gives us the time to reflect inward, realize what we may need to do, and exemplify to us that a little 'selfish' time for ourselves can exponentially benefit other aspects of our lives."
Personal trainer at Peak Performance NYC
"When I'm having a bad day, there's nothing that lifts my mood better than putting myself through a grueling sweat session. I never let myself make any rash decisions until I've let off some steam in the gym and had a good night's sleep. Exercise clears my head and allows me to see the glass half full. When I exercise consistently, I feel better. And when I feel better, I do better in life. "
Director of pilates at FLEX Studios
“Joseph Pilates said it best: ‘Physical Fitness is the first requisite of happiness.’ Making the commitment to prioritize fitness will not only help you physically look and feel your best, but will also influence other facets of your life. If you are working hard on your body, you want all of your choices to align with that work rather than sabotage it. You will find yourself making healthier choices in diet, sleep habits, social life and even stress and time management, which will also keep you mentally fit. It’s no secret that when we feel our best, we operate on a higher level and move through life confidently and fearlessly.”
Instructor at SoulCycle
"Fitness encompasses both a spiritual and physical experience. When the mind, body and soul connect, we can gain perspective and strength in all areas of life."
Instructor at Physique 57
"When we exercise regularly and begin to see positive changes like more strength, endurance and energy, we take control of our bodies and realize our bodies do not control us. We gain a sense of power and realize we are capable of more than our limiting beliefs, building our self-confidence and self-esteem. By challenging our bodies and minds in an exercise setting, we learn tools like will-power, commitment and determination, which are the same tools needed to empower our lives outside the studio or gym."
Carl Helmle III
Vice president of personal and group Training at David Barton Gym
"Exercise not only changes your body and overall health but it also improves your self-esteem and general outlook on life. Exercise teaches you how to deal with adversity in your day to day life; think about the first time you worked out or took a class, it was hard and you probably didn't think you would make it, but you did...and you came back. Why? Because it gave you a sense of accomplishment, and that's powerful. All of a sudden what seemed impossible wasn't and that mentality starts taking over in other areas of your life."