When people talk about the benefits of exercise, we often hear about the effects exercise has on prevention of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, certain cancers, as well as improving mental health. Something that is perhaps less talked about is the effect exercise can have on your personal development.
Recent studies have shown that there is a link between exercise and increased levels of self confidence, the ability to learn new skills, handle difficult situations and decreased levels of stress – all important life and work skills. But how does this work?
Embracing Uncomfortable Situations
Exercise can be tough. Whether it’s your first 10k, a hard bike ride, weightlifting, hill walking or competitive game of rugby or football, exercise can test us to our limits of physical and mental strength and energy.
These testing moments teach us to be comfortable with being uncomfortable – something that can easily translate to other areas of our lives. A difficult conversation at work may not seem so difficult anymore. Relationship difficulties may seem easier to resolve. Deadlines at work may not be so stressful.
This has been proven in a study by the European Journal of Applied Physiology. The twenty week study divided two groups of students and instructed half to run twice a week for the duration. The results showed the students enrolled in the running program were not as stressed during exams – i.e they were comfortable in an uncomfortable situation.
Practice Makes Perfect
“Good habits are powerful because they change our sense of self and our sense of what is possible” Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit
The benefits of practising and honing an activity or exercise regime have positive effects on our lives beyond simple strength and fitness goals. A study in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that student who went from no exercise to regular exercise reported a decrease in stress, smoking, alcohol consumption and an improvement in diet and cleanliness.
The study showed that exercise improved the student capacity for self control – they were much better at studying for exams or essays, and showed improvements in managing budgets.
The positive results are likely caused by the beneficial habits learned during exercise, such as, goal setting and achieving, healthy eating and making sure you are hydrated, building a stronger mindset – as well as the increased energy as a result of being active and healthy.
‘Deliberate practice’ involves pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, developing new abilities by following training designed by an expert, and using feedback to identify a weakness and how you could improve on it.
This is a process we go through if you go to say, a yoga class – but by applying the same process to other areas of your life you find it easier to develop new skills. Think about the areas of your life where you might be struggling with. It might be developing at work, learning a language, or trying to teach yourself to think more positively. By applying the ‘deliberate practice’ method you may find it easier to push your boundaries.
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