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How Physical Health and Fitness Contribute to Confidence

Last updated on 20th June 2024

There is a strong link between our physical fitness and our health which is backed by extensive scientific research. However, we often focus on how fitness impacts our physical health, for example how it improves fitness, contributes to weight loss, and reduces the risk of chronic diseases. But exercise and our physical fitness and well-being also have powerful effects on our mental health, including increasing our self-esteem and self-confidence.

Research has shown that regular exercise can boost self-esteem and self-confidence, even in people who initially lack confidence. This is because when we exercise, our bodies release endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. Endorphins are hormones that are produced in your brain and are a type of neurotransmitter that acts as messengers in your body. They attach to your brain’s reward centres – the opioid receptors – and carry signals across your nervous system. They are produced to help relieve pain, reduce stress and improve mood and can be boosted by exercising. One of the easiest ways to release endorphins is by exercising. 

Endorphins have many benefits, and in this article, we will examine how the endorphins that you create through exercise:

  • Positively impacts your physical health and mental well-being
  • Enhances your body image and self-esteem
  • Increases your energy and vitality
  • Improves your posture and body language

All of which contribute to boosting your self-esteem and self-confidence, providing a sense of accomplishment, and more energy to accomplish more. Good physical health and fitness are empowering, and make you feel more capable to take on life’s challenges.

Physical Health and Mental Well-being

Physical Health and Mental Well-being

It is natural for a person to feel low, worried or stressed when feeling unwell, as our physical health and well-being can affect our mental health and well-being, and vice-versa. When we are feeling well, our mood and attitudes are usually more positive.

Being in good health generally means that we are able to get better quality sleep, which is crucial for regulating our mood. Sufficient quality sleep enables the brain to process emotions and to recover from the daily stressors. It also helps to support the optimal functioning of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine and endorphins, all of which are vital for regulating our mood. 

When we are feeling unwell or unhealthy, our sleep patterns can be disturbed. During sleep we cycle through different sleep stages, moving from lighter sleep stages to deep sleep. This cycle doesn’t happen just once. It happens repeatedly over the night, with each sleep cycle lasting around 90 minutes. Although some people might find that 8 hours of sleep at night suits them, others may need more or less than this. Whilst individuals have different sleep needs, it is the quality of this sleep that is important.

Experiencing poor sleep quality such as having trouble getting to sleep and/or waking for long periods throughout the night, can mean that you feel tired and groggy in the morning. This is unhealthy and can impair your focus and worsen your mood. As your body is not replenishing and healing through lack of quality sleep, it can also mean that you have difficulty concentrating during the day, you feel more stressed, emotionally exhausted, and more irritable than usual. Your skin may suffer breakouts, and your eyes become red and puffy and develop dark circles or eye bags. You may feel aches and pains throughout your body and feel more hungry than usual, leading to overeating or snacking on junk food which can cause sluggishness and weight gain. These unhealthy symptoms can begin to impact not only your health and well-being but also the way that you feel about yourself. Feeling tired and sluggish and not looking at your best through lack of quality sleep impacts self-confidence and self-esteem.

Getting enough quality sleep is not the only healthy habit to impact physical and mental well-being, as it can impact other healthy habits such as healthy eating and exercise. A healthy diet is essential for good health and nutrition. Following a healthy diet has many benefits, including:

  • Building strong bones
  • Protecting your heart
  • Preventing disease
  • Boosting your mood

Diet can affect blood glucose levels, immune activation, and the gut microbiome, which may affect a person’s mood. Researchers have found that there may be a link between healthier diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, which comprises fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains, and better mental health. Whereas, the opposite is true for diets with high amounts of red meat, processed and high fat foods. 

Many healthy foods, including vegetables, fruits and beans, are lower in calories than most processed foods, which helps in maintaining a moderate weight. This can help reduce the risk of chronic health issues, increase energy levels and contribute to feelings of positive body image and high self-esteem and self-confidence.

When people suffer from chronic tiredness, mostly from stress, poor diet and lack of sleep, this ongoing fatigue makes even the thought of exercise onerous. On the other hand, when a person feels well, relaxed, nourished and rested they are often far more motivated to engage in exercise. 

Many people feel that they are too unfit or overweight to even start exercise; however, although starting any form of exercise may at first seem difficult, once begun, it actually boosts overall energy levels, which helps you sleep better at night, improves your appetite, clears your mind, and allows you to do more with each day. This provides a sense of accomplishment and boosts self-esteem and self-confidence.

Self-esteem and self-confidence are inextricably linked to both physical and mental health and well-being. Having low self-esteem and self-confidence can lead to poor health behaviours such as:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Obesity
  • Lethargy
  • Self-depredation
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

These then in turn lead to poor physical and mental health and well-being. Taking the first step towards improving health behaviours whether that is making even small changes to eating habits, or starting exercise by going for a walk, will start to break the cycle of unhealthy behaviours. This can provide the energy and motivation to do more, and the extra energy itself can make you feel more confident, brightening your mood and improving your mental well-being.

Enhanced Body Image and Self-esteem

Often our self-esteem and self-confidence are linked to how we feel about our appearance and our bodies. In the media we are bombarded with unrealistic beauty standards and pressures to conform to certain visual ideals of body image. Body image is a term that can be used to describe how we think and feel about our bodies. If you feel that you don’t measure up to these so-called ideals, or if you don’t like the way your body looks, you are likely to have lower self-esteem and self-confidence.

In a report by the Mental Health Foundation, they found that:

  • One in five adults (20%) felt shame, just over one-third (34%) felt down or low, and 19% felt disgusted by their body image
  • Just over one-third of adults said they had felt anxious (34%) or depressed (35%) because of their body image
  • 30% of all adults have felt so stressed by body image and appearance that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope
  • One in eight (13%) adults experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings because of concerns about their body image
  • Just over one in five adults (21%) said images used in advertising had caused them to worry about their body image
  • Just over one in five adults (22%) and 40% of teenagers said images on social media caused them to worry about their body image
  • Among teenagers, 37% felt upset and 31% felt ashamed about their body image
  • 35% of young people aged 13–19 years, said their body image causes them to ‘often’ or ‘always’ worry
  • 46% of girls reported that their body image causes them to worry ‘often’ or ‘always’
  • 25% of boys reported that their body image causes them to worry ‘often’ or ‘always’
  • 16- to 25-year-olds identify body image as the third biggest challenge currently causing harm to young people
  • 40% of young people (37% of boys and 42% of girls) agreed that things their friends said caused them to worry about their body image

Concerns and worries about appearance are commonplace among young people. 

In a survey of 11- to 16-year-olds in the UK by Be Real, they found that 79% said how they look is important to them, and over half (52%) often worry about how they look. 

Body positivity strives to help people develop a healthy body image. A person’s body image, which is a subjective perception of one’s own body, may be different from how their body actually appears. Having a positive body image is associated with a reduced risk of depression, higher self-esteem, and fewer unhealthy behaviours. Body positivity means:

  • Showing respect for your body
  • Eating healthy meals because it fuels your mind and body
  • Exercising because it helps you feel strong and energised, not because you are trying to change or control your body

Unfortunately, how you feel about your body can influence your physical activity participation. Individuals who feel better about their bodies, that is those who have a positive body image, are more likely to engage in physical activity than those who have a negative body image. This is one reason why it is important to focus on feeling good about being active, regardless of your shape or size, and feel proud that you are doing something good for yourself.

Individuals who are self-conscious and anxious about their appearance tend to prefer to exercise alone, and this can impact their levels of enjoyment. Involvement in exercise and physical activities is improved when people experience social support such as exercising with friends or joining a class or gym, and they can find more enjoyment in the activity as it helps with motivation. 

Exercise has other benefits as well as improving fitness, it impacts the body’s overall health too. Exercise boosts blood flow to the skin’s surface which improves the skin’s appearance. It also strengthens muscle tone which also improves the skin’s appearance, making the face and body look and feel healthier, and can make you feel better about yourself, enhancing your self-esteem and self-confidence.

However, physical fitness is more than just your physical appearance. It is a state of being, a state of mind, and an attitude. This is something you can’t see on the outside but that will make all the difference in how people perceive you as a person, and how attractive they find you to be. Physical fitness instils a greater level of self-esteem and self-confidence which are attractive qualities to have; when you feel good, you will look good.

Increased Energy and Vitality

Increased Energy and Vitality

Exercise sends oxygen and nutrients to your body tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. When your heart and lung health improve, you have more energy to tackle daily challenges. Getting in shape – getting fit, building muscle and conditioning your body – won’t happen overnight. However, neither does it take too long before you start to notice a difference. 

To be able to see results, you will first need to identify the results that you want to see. Are you hoping to feel stronger or more energetic? This will have a bearing on the type of exercise that you choose to do. For example, jogging is a simple exercise that provides substantial physical and mental benefits. It can lower fatigue and boost concentration and alertness, revitalising cognitive functions. Jogging releases endorphins, the natural painkillers produced by the brain, and enhances sleep. 

Swimming or performing water aerobics can replenish your energy. Besides improving your strength, flexibility and endurance, swimming is also a relaxing, low-impact exercise that cools and refreshes the body. Swimming increases blood circulation, oxygenates the muscles, exercises the cardiovascular system and relieves stress and tension.

Walking can be a very valuable form of exercise. Just ten minutes of walking around at pace or climbing stairs is an effective way to wind up your energy levels. Walking also improves your fitness level, enhances your mental well-being, and helps you to sleep soundly at night.

Other forms of exercise that you might want to consider to boost energy levels and vitality and to improve your overall physical fitness might include, but are not limited to:

Cycling – this is a great aerobic exercise that helps improve posture, lowers blood pressure, and leaves you energised.

Pilates – this involves proper breathing, strengthening the core muscles, and correcting posture to enhance the level of oxygenation throughout the body. It also targets exercises to stretch the front of the neck to improve thyroid production and relieve bottled-up stress in the hips. The thyroid hormone is the hormone that is mainly responsible for controlling the speed of your body’s metabolism.

Yoga – this is popular for its soothing and energy-boosting benefits attained through slow movement and rhythmic breathing. Gentle bending movements such as Upward Dog, Bridge and Extended Mountain help open your spine and loosen tightened chest muscles. This, in turn, encourages deep breathing and open postures, which improve your physical energy and mental alertness.

Weights – this is also known as resistance training and it provides a range of mental and physical health benefits in addition to boosting your energy levels. It builds muscle mass and burns fat, promotes neurogenesis (brain growth), where brain cells build new connections with other brain cells, forging new pathways for better short- and long-term memory retention. It not only reduces the risk of bone loss but it also promotes bone growth and strengthens the bones the muscles pull against, as well as the connective tissues between muscles and bones.

The extra energy that exercising and fitness bring can make you feel more confident, but with regular exercise, you can achieve more, you will have better focus, be more productive at work, and have more energy, vigour and motivation for your social life and other activities.

Improved Posture and Body Language

As we have seen above, many forms of exercise have the added benefit of improving your posture, as exercise assists with strengthening your core and upper back muscles. In turn, you develop the strength to keep your body in balance and avoid slouching. Some tell-tale signs to be aware of poor posture include:

  • Bending your knees when either standing or walking
  • Rounded shoulders
  • Aches and pains, particularly in your back
  • Headaches
  • Leaning your head forwards or backwards

To improve your posture when standing:

  • Stand up straight and tall
  • Keep your shoulders back
  • Pull your stomach in
  • Put your weight mostly on the balls of your feet
  • Keep your head level
  • Let your arms hang down naturally at your sides
  • Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart

To improve your posture when sitting:

  • Switch sitting positions often
  • Take brief walks around your office or home
  • Gently stretch your muscles every so often to help relieve muscle tension
  • Don’t cross your legs; keep your feet on the floor, with your ankles in front of your knees
  • Make sure that your feet touch the floor, or if that’s not possible, use a footrest
  • Relax your shoulders; they should not be rounded or pulled backwards
  • Keep your elbows in close to your body; they should be bent between 90 and 120 degrees
  • Make sure that your back is fully supported; use a back pillow or other back support if your chair does not have a backrest that can support your lower back’s curve
  • Make sure that your thighs and hips are supported; you should have a well-padded seat, and your thighs and hips should be parallel to the floor

The key to good posture is the position of your spine. Your spine has three natural curves, at your neck, mid back, and lower back. Correct posture should maintain these curves, but not increase them. Your head should be above your shoulders, and the top of your shoulder should be over the hips.

You can project confidence and assertiveness through your positive posture and body language. They enable you to walk into a room with intention and exude self-confidence that communicates your commitment and trustworthiness. Each gesture can say a lot about who you are, how you are feeling, and how much you care about what you are doing. If you project a confident, credible, composed image, people will respond to you as if you are all those things. Some examples of confident body language include:

  • Maintaining appropriate eye contact – by doing this you communicate that you are honest, approachable and confident. You are showing people that they have your full attention. People who don’t maintain eye contact, or who are the first to break eye contact, may signal that they are hiding something or feeling uncomfortable, or consider themselves submissive to the person they are speaking to.
  • Leaving your arms uncrossed – this lets others know that you are open to conversation and feedback. Unconfident body language such as crossing your arms counters this more expressive, open behaviour.
  • Standing or sitting up straight – straighten your back, unclench your jaw and release the tension from your shoulders. Imagine that you have a piece of string attached to the top of your head and pull it up to straighten your posture. Slouching or hunching your shoulders gives an impression of being nervous or uninterested.
  • Walk with intention – your walk should look purposeful, controlled, calm and unhurried. Walk with your head up and your eyes looking forward. Rushing or scuttling will make you look nervous and in a hurry; too big a step makes you look awkward.
  • Speak slowly and clearly – slow down and allow your audience to hear what you are saying. This is a way to command respect. Feeling nervous can often lead to rushing through our talking points and comments to end a conversation sooner; speaking quickly can make your nervousness and self-consciousness evident.

The key to confident movement is the intention behind it. It is a way to non-verbally show self-assurance and lack of fear in a situation. Anxiety and discomfort can manifest in our body language as fidgeting, pacing or repetitive movements such as bouncing a knee or tapping a foot.

Setting and Achieving Fitness Goals

Setting and Achieving Fitness Goals

As we have noted, keeping active clears your mind, improves your well-being, has proven health benefits and helps to boost your self-esteem and self-confidence.  

There are so many reasons to exercise, so knowing what drives you will help in setting clear goals and sticking to a plan. Whether you want to feel stronger, improve your fitness, feel better day-to-day, or improve your self-esteem and self-confidence, knowing what drives you will help you take the right steps forward.

First decide if you want to exercise on your own, with a friend or in a group. This will help you in choosing the right type of exercise. 

Set your goal. Having a goal is a great way to motivate yourself to get started and to keep going. It is often recommended to set yourself a series of staged milestones; your milestones should start easy and gradually get more challenging, step-by-step. 

Identify possible challenges and how you plan to overcome them, for example if you know that after work can be a difficult time to fit in exercise, consider exercising during the lunch break or before work, perhaps just get off the bus one stop early and walk the remainder of the way, or take a walk before eating lunch. 

If you miss a milestone, don’t give up, keep going and allow yourself to sometimes fail. Learn from the failure and move forward. 

Exercise can become monotonous and even boring, so incorporating some variations helps to remain motivated. Also getting support such as an exercise buddy can make a big difference and can also help to cheer you on and keep you focused.

Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. Share your successes with your friends and family and reward yourself, for example, for reaching and surpassing a milestone.

The goals you set and the steps you take don’t have to be big to make a noticeable impact on your fitness, your mood, your health, your life and your self-esteem and self-confidence. But, no matter what your goals for getting fit are, it is important to remember that everyone’s journey to fitness is unique, and that you are much better served focusing on your own progress rather than trying to match someone else’s.

Social Interaction and Community Engagement

Fitness and exercise classes are a great way to not only improve your fitness but also to meet like-minded people as you will have a shared interest in the activity that you are doing and a desire to feel fit and healthy. This will also help you to increase your social circle.

Between November 2022 to November 2023, approximately 6.2 million people participated in fitness classes in England. This marked an increase from the number of participants two years earlier, which stood at over approximately 5.8 million.

An EMD UK YouGov survey estimates that over 4 million people in England participate in group exercise classes, and that technology has a hand to play in the predominance of these exercises. Numerous fitness companies, such as Peloton, have made it easier for people to participate in group classes from the comfort of their homes. The fact that individuals belong to a community that shares a common fitness goal with others is an added reason for its prevalence. Notably, group exercise is pivotal in the battle against long-term health conditions, with 35% of participants reporting such conditions. These encompass mental health, mobility issues, long-term pain, and chronic health conditions such as diabetes and coronary heart disease. This highlights the role of group exercise instructors in managing and mitigating health challenges.

They also established that:

  • 3.43 million weekly group fitness participants are female and 1.21 million are male.
  • Private gyms remain the most popular location where group fitness class participants take part; however, there has been an increase of 16% in those taking part ‘At mine/someone’s house’ in comparison to pre-COVID-19.
  • 38% take part in online classes, live streamed and on demand.
  • This appetite for online rises to 56% for those who are interested in attending group fitness classes but currently don’t participate.

Exercise and fitness are important for both our mental and physical health and well-being; however, it sometimes can be hard to keep up the motivation when we exercise alone. People are innately social creatures, as even the most introverted person requires social interaction from time to time. Social interaction is good for our minds, bodies and mental well-being. It also increases our self-esteem and self-confidence. This is why exercising with other people has numerous benefits:

  • It can be good fun – connecting with others makes us feel good as both the exercise and the social interaction releases the feel-good hormones and endorphins.
  • Doing exercise with others is great for your morale – you are more likely to commit to taking part and to making it a regular routine if you have committed to others; you are less likely to cancel, and you are able to feel a great sense of achievement as a result.
  • A social connection means having meaningful and regular social exchanges, a close bond with others, a person to turn to for support if the going gets tough, and someone who can provide encouragement to keep you on track with your fitness plan.
  • The energy of your friends will help keep you exercising for longer and, if you’re in a class, there will be a teacher or trainer on hand to encourage you too.
  • Doing exercise with others also encourages a bit of healthy competition.
  • Socialising whilst exercising can reduce symptoms of depression by decreasing feelings of loneliness, isolation and anxiety.
  • Increasing social interactions, such as joining a fitness club or class, not only gives you a sense of belonging and connectedness but also opportunities to share experiences together and a greater sense of purpose.
  • Participation in group fitness or exercise activities can lead to other interests and friendships beyond the activity.
  • Socialising strengthens your heart by lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation, and gives your immune system a boost to help you recover from illness faster. This is enhanced by the addition of some form of exercise.
  • Social interactions can boost health and well-being through a positive influence on each other’s lifestyle habits, for example studies show when a friend or partner improves their health behaviours, such as by exercising, drinking less and eating healthier, the other person is likely to do the same.


Incorporating positive healthy behaviours and routines into your daily life is essential for improving and maintaining your physical and mental well-being. From regular exercise and balanced nutrition to quality sleep and self-care practices, these habits form the foundation of a healthy lifestyle which is essential for your self-esteem and self-confidence. 

Self-care is crucial for maintaining physical, mental and emotional well-being, as it recharges and rejuvenates your mind and body, helping you to feel good about yourself. When you feel good about yourself you are able to enjoy your life and have things to look forward to, you are able to overcome and bounce back from life’s challenges and you are able to form and develop meaningful relationships with others. 

As we have seen, even making small changes to unhealthy behaviours can have positive effects, and how starting these changes with small incremental steps so that you can measure and celebrate your progress, can be a more motivating and sustainable strategy that will set you up to achieve your goals. Be patient and persistent, as changing habits takes time; however, as you embrace these positive changes, you will find that your overall well-being improves, which should be your ultimate goal.

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About the author

Luke Bell

Luke joined the team in February 2024 and helps with content production, working closely with freelance writers and voice artists, along with managing SEO. Originally from Winchester, he graduated with a degree in Film Production in 2018 and has spent the years since working in various job roles in retail before finding his place in our team. Outside of work Luke is passionate about gaming, music, and football. He also enjoys watching films, with a particular love of the fantasy and horror genres.

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