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OPINION: Exercise Should Be Fun, Not Enslaving


by Hannah Eschelbach

Being ‘healthy’ is such a relative term that it doesn’t even seem to have a meaning. A definition on Medical News Today, an online resource, states, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

But what exactly is the barometer for physical well-being? Humans, in our love for simplifying things, have developed a questionable way of measuring this: how someone looks.

Thanks to pretty much every type of media imaginable, being ‘small’ is seen as a good thing — physically attractive by our standards — and it has become entangled in this hazy idea of ‘health.’ Because many people do not truly know what ‘health’ is, they do not exercise out of a fear of being unhealthy. No, the real motivation for their workouts is the fear of being unattractive. There are too many people poking and squeezing and sucking in before the mirror, thinking that it’s all their fault. But to those same people, contracting a cold is nothing shameful. After all, a cold is an internal thing, a state that can’t be measured by a bathroom scale.

The adage goes, “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.” In other words, the eyes are very unreliable. If a skinny person has arthritis while a bigger person has the most flexible fingers imaginable, who is healthier? Health is always more of a feeling. When you’re slumped on the couch after a massive potato-chip binge, isn’t the unpleasantness you feel more than just thinking that you’re ‘fat?’ Isn’t it this sort of sick feeling in your stomach, an overload? It’s a feeling.

Health is how you feel. Do we measure mental health in how a person looks? You can’t even see mental health. Physical health should be considered in the same way. You should be working out because it makes you feel strong, because you like the feeling of your heart pounding and your body working at its maximum capacity. Exercise is hard for some people because it’s seen as a chore, it’s this thing that you have to do or else you’ll be seen as lazy and unattractive. People who are serious about sports say they play for the thrill of the game, not to get skinny. Exercise should be the same way; something fun.

When you’re focused on the feeling and not just how you look, there are all sorts of possibilities for that heart-pounding, rapid-breathing, exciting feeling of a physical workout that don’t involve the clank of machines at a pricey gym. When I ride my bike, it’s for the exhilaration of speed and movement. People take yoga classes for the sense of peace and balance they feel. Kickboxing gets out aggression. Exercise is an activity, something personal that results in a good feeling. We should not be slaves bound to appearance.

Hannah Eschelbach (ESH-shel-bok) is tired of no one being able to pronounce her surname.