Research by UNESCO has shown that participation in sport increases women’s self-esteem and confidence, which can carry through to the ways we ‘show up’ at work.
Ernst & Young also conducted a survey in 2013 which revealed the importance of participation in sports in the development of leadership skills for female executives, and their ability to motivate teams.
There’s no doubt that exercise makes you physically well – improving your heart strength and lung capacity, strengthening your bones, increasing your energy levels and lowering your blood pressure. But the psychological benefits are also huge and often underestimated.
- Feeling physically strong can often lead to feeling mentally strong and capable of taking on new challenges.
- Exceeding your own expectations physically – be it lifting a new weight or running further than you thought you could – is a great reminder not to underestimate yourself in any capacity.
- Having some ‘me-time’ to clear your mind and process your day can mean you’re able to walk into a meeting feeling more mentally clear to deal with whatever tough conversations are thrown your way.
- Kicking off your day with a workout and stimulating your blood flow can leave you physically energised for hours to cope with the busiest days.
- Even the success of creating an exercise plan and sticking to it can create such a sense of achievement, that improvements in self-esteem become a natural side effect.
I distinctly recall preparing for an important meeting a few years ago, when the big wigs were on their way from Germany to determine whether our team needed to exist any longer within the company. On the morning of the meeting, I was out of bed at 5.30am to allow myself an hour for a good solid run. I spent the first half hour of the run preparing for what I expected lay ahead by asking and then answering questions inside my head, hoping I’d covered every topic which was likely to come my way. And I spent the second half hour telling myself “I am calm, I am confident, I am competent”. Slowly, over and over again, until I actually believed it.
By the time I arrived back at my apartment, my mind felt so clear and ready to head to work without any of the panic and fear which had gripped me for days prior. I put on my favourite outfit which made me feel comfortable and confident. And I left for work with my muscles still buzzing and energised from the run, and with more clarity and perspective than I’d had in weeks. (For the record, the meeting went more smoothly than I could have ever imagined – the Germans had no idea that they had caused such hysteria up until the day prior, and our team wasn’t disbanded. Well, not at that point in time anyway).
It’s no coincidence that fit people are often confident people. They respect their bodies enough to get out and exercise regularly. They overcome mental and physical hurdles to push themselves a little harder to finish that session in the rain or to get out of bed when the early alarm goes off. They’re far less likely to stand in front of the wardrobe for half an hour in the morning trying to find something to wear which fits properly and is comfortable. And the mental benefits they reap from exercising are often as significant as the physical benefits – self-confidence included.
Brooke Rodger is a member of the FlexCareers community and a passionate devotee of exercise and wellbeing. Brooke has worked for brands which reflect her love of the healthier things in life, including Boost Juice Bars and the Adidas Group.
Whilst on maternity Brooke founded SOULMAMA, a fitness brand committed to women.