Firstly, I must admit I’m not a medical expert. Or dietician, or psychological. I just teach martial arts!

I read this article on the BBC website with interest today. It notes a study that suggests that sometimes (and I stress sometimes), regular exercise can bring as good health benefits if not better than taking medication.

Obviously, doing both reaps the most rewards.

In my line of work, I notice all the time how people say they feel fitter, healthier, more in shape, once they’ve started attending classes regularly. It’s one of many rewards of taking up a class, and one of the most common reasons adults choose to sign up.

But for me, one of the best benefits is psychological.

A class, unlike going down the gym, is a social environment. Not only are you working hard, strengthening your muscles, improving stamina, burning fat, you’re also meeting new people, becoming more confident in your abilities, and – perhaps most importantly – noticing the changes that inevitably happen with regular activity.

And once you begin to notice changes, such as weight loss, muscle development or improved stamina, you’re more motivated to slowly and sustainably improve those. And it becomes easier over time.

The social element only makes this easier, by making the activity a joy to come to. And slowly the health benefits are coupled with other benefits – improved confidence, social skills, self-awareness, self-appreciation and – the bets one – self-worth.

And that for me is the heart of the issue. Exercise for exercise’s sake rarely produces results except amongst the most determined individuals, and yields the expected physical benefits. Exercising, socialising, having fun – in other words a hobby, one you look forward to going to and ache for when you can’t go – produces many more benefits than health alone.

That’s not to diminish the health benefits – and studies like this show how important exercise can be to your overal health – but it must be coupled with confidence boosting and a buzz from being around such a positive crowd that really bring long-term benefits, to body, mind and spirit.

– Michael