Exercise: Why it’s about so much MORE than just a simple dress size

There are very few among us who haven’t dusted off a gym membership or intensified an exercise routine the moment news drops that there’s a major social event on the horizon.

And for the vast majority of us, we do it to look good, fit a certain dress and give the metaphorical middle finger to anyone who might have doubted us.

But there’s so much more to exercise than being able to rock an outfit without sucking in all night as Kathryn Thomas told SHEmazing! when we caught up with her to chat about the latest research from Irish Life Health.

With 71 per cent of Irish people surveyed seeking to improve their fitness in their free time, Kathryn, as Irish Life Health ambassador, is keen to remind us that exercise is less about a number on a scale and more about improving your current health, securing your future health and protecting your mental health.

And while we might be all #fitfam online, research shows that the hectic lifestyles led by Irish people means we struggle to establish and maintain a routine – something which Kathryn understands, but insists we must tackle.

“Like you prioritise brushing your teeth or making your lunch or getting to work, the same needs to be done when it comes to health and exercise.”

And yet that doesn’t mean you need to kiss goodbye to life as you know it, with Kathryn saying: “I’m a firm believer in 80/20. There are some Friday nights when I come home, lay in front of The Late Late and order a takeaway, and that’s OK.”

"When I go out for dinner, I have a starter, a main, a dessert and I have cheese, coffee and wine. But I also know that I’ll probably go for a 5K jog the next day or bring the dogs out to keep that balance.”

“I don’t advocate completely cutting out any one food group – wheat or dairy or sugar – because it’s not sustainable,” she added.

Reminding us that exercise is more than just about the here and now, it’s about insuring yourself against the future, saying: “You don’t want to sit in a doctor’s office in the future and hear you have Type 2 Diabetes.”

And while the nation's attitude to exercise is changing as a whole, nowhere is this more evident than in women’s perspective to health and exercise.

Less than a decade ago, our news feeds were awash with ‘size zero trend’ images, but these days hashtags like #fitnotthin and #girlswholift are much more commonplace.

Commenting on this, Kathryn said: “I think social can come in for a battering, but on the flip side it’s also a really useful platform when it comes to fitness and nutrition.”

“There’s a wealth of information out there for people to get their hands on. Tutorials, guidelines, recipes, and these are very valuable things when it comes to good health and exercise.”

Explaining that she herself is still learning when it comes to exercise and nutrition, she laughs: “My perspective has changed on exercise since my days eating Chinese in the UCD bar. Now it’s about how vital it is to my health.”

And health no longer only refers to the physical, with Kathryn acknowledging the importance regular exercise has on mental health and emotional wellbeing.

“Yeah, feeling great has a lot to do with fitting into those jeans, but the serotonin does so much more than that,” she said.

Amen to that.