There are many ways exercise can increase your self-esteem. Lifting weights has been found to lower anxiety. Aerobics classes can improve mental positivity. Tai chi can increase a person's feeling of self-worth.The reasons behind the phenomenon of self-esteem boosts through exercise are still being investigated. Different studies posit reasons, some widely recognized and some unique, for why self-esteem is affected by exercise.
Men vs Women
In a study published by the "Journal of Education and Human Development," it was posited that a sense of physical self-worth is based on several aspects, including sports competence and physical attractiveness. The 2008 study, conducted in Athens, Greece, found that male participants' increase in self-esteem through exercise could be linked to an increased feeling of sports competence after exercise, whereas the female subjects' increased self-esteem from exercise was linked to increased positive feelings about improvements in physical attractiveness. Regardless of the gender-specific reasons, the outcome was the same: Self-esteem was increased through exercise.
A 1989 study published in "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise" found that weight lifting has been tied to an increase in self-esteem when the person exercising increases the amount of weight she is able to lift. Every time you are able to add more weight to your barbell for a bench press, you feel more capable. This feeling leads you to believe you are more competent at something, which directly increases your self-esteem. Becoming stronger, faster or better at an exercise over time directly leads to an increased sense of self-worth.
A 1994 study conducted at UCLA discovered that aerobics classes had a profound effect on the self-esteem of pregnant women. Pregnancy can cause hormonal and physical changes that can be very challenging to mental health. This study showed that a six-week aerobics program showed a decrease in physical complaints associated with pregnancy, a significant decrease in depressive symptoms and an increase in total self-esteem. This was thought to be the result of increased physical fitness that relieved physical complaints and increased positive feelings brought about by a positive social environment in the aerobics class. If physical difficulties or social isolation is hurting your self-esteem, consider joining an aerobics class.
Tai chi was used in a six-month study at the Oregon Research Institute with seniors to determine the psychological effects of this particular exercise. At the end of the study, the subjects reported an increase in positive mental outlook, confidence, self-esteem and life satisfaction. The reason for this was tied to an increased confidence with balance and physical efficacy. An increase in something as simple as balance is empowering. Exercise can have positive mental effects on a person of any age, and may benefit you more, the older you get.