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7 Ways Exercise Can Boost Your Self-Esteem

Want to know a shortcut to building a stronger, happier, sexier, more confident version of you?

Ditch the self-help books, detox teas and healing crystals, there’s one way to feeling more radiant and positive and it’s completely free…

If you’re struggling with your self-esteem, we’ve got seven reasons why starting your training journey could be what you need to go from wallflower to all-around badass.

Female weight loss before and after

Alex loses 20kg in 25 weeks achieving newfound confidence ahead of her holiday.

How does self-esteem affect us?

As Elle so succinctly puts it in Legally Blonde, “…exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t shoot their husbands; they just don’t.”

Tongue-in-cheek, maybe, but it’s a timely reminder that exercise actually makes you feel pretty great…

….and far less likely to kill your significant other – but don’t quote us on that.

Jokes aside, low self-esteem is no laughing matter. And even though low self-esteem isn’t a recognised mental health condition, it can significantly affect how you make decisions and assert yourself, make yourself available to try new things or push yourself out of your comfort zone [1].

Think back to the last time you spent an hour rummaging through your wardrobe, stressing that all your clothes now seem to make you look like a frumpy old maid. It probably didn’t make you feel like you could take on the world, right?!

And the science backs up that low self-esteem isn’t just a case of being a ‘snowflake’. It can have real, tangible effects on our desire to succeed, and overall happiness [2]. As a result, how we see ourselves can have a significant impact on quality of life.

Academic research into self-esteem is scant, but a 2017 global report surveying over 10,000 women found that 85% of women and 79% of girls opt out of life important activities (like joining a new club or team) or socialising when they don’t feel good about how they look. Up to 87% of women report eating less or putting their health at risk in other ways. So, what’s holding women back?

1. Social media pressures can lower self-esteem

The more you use social media, the more likely you are to be unsatisfied and unhappy. And we’re using it more than ever before.

Use of social networks has been consistently linked to lower scores for self-esteem and well-being [3].

Other studies have also shown that increased use of social media directly correlates with declines in life satisfaction levels and social skills [4]. Those minutes spent mindless scrolling to fill time between tasks could ironically be more likely to decrease your social confidence than boost it.

2. Fear of missing out can affect self-esteem

If you often feel like everyone else is having more fun without you, the answer is in your ambitions and needs not everyone around you.

Fear of missing out, or FOMO, refers to the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing [5]. But, you guessed it, social media use is directly linked to increased feelings of FOMO and lower rates of mood and life satisfaction [6].

3. Increasingly unattainable beauty standards can lower self-esteem

We all know that comparing yourself to an airbrushed and ‘perfected’ image is likely only ever to chip your confidence, but it’s pretty impossible to avoid in today’s wall-to-wall media environment.

Stats show that up to 65% of women and 65% of girls feel increasing pressure from advertising and media to meet an unrealistic standard of beauty [7]. So if you’re feeling the pressure to conform, you’re not alone.

pregnancy weight loss before and after

New mum Shilpa reclaims pre-baby body and finds new confidence.

Training your way to a more confident you

There are no end of self-help books and blogs that claim to rid you of your confidence issues. But there are a tonne of reasons why exercise is one of the most available, cheapest and powerful tools in the arsenal if you want to see yourself in a new light.

1. Exercise is one of the most potent anti-depressants to improve self-esteem

Women are statistically twice as likely to develop depression than men [8]. Yet a wealth of evidence shows that aerobic exercise, such as jogging, swimming, or even walking, can improve symptoms of anxiety and depression [9].

2. Exercise is a powerful brain booster to improve self-confidence

Regular exercise has been found to improve markers of cognitive function as well as improvements in quality-of-life scores [10]. If you want to take your professional performance to the next level, moving more could give you a much-needed confidence boost.

3. Look better, feel better and improve your self-confidence

Let’s face it, being able to fit into your old favourite jeans is a hell of a confidence boost! Beyond the immediate endorphin rush, exercise and resistance training are among the best tools for achieving and maintaining a healthy body composition and getting you into your favourite pair of jeans.

4. Feel stronger, inside and out will boost your self-esteem

If you want to feel confident in your abilities inside and out, the skill acquisition and strength gains you’ll enjoy through resistance training are unrivalled in their benefits.

Research shows that regular exercise improves self-efficacy (your belief about whether you can achieve a particular outcome) and increases self-esteem and body awareness [11].

Female weight loss before and after

Zrinka’s 53kg fat loss: From feeling ‘worthless’ to body confident and beautiful.

5. Set and achieve goals to improve your self-confidence

If you’re thinking about going for a job or promotion, setting and achieving some new goals could be what you need to get an edge over your competitors.

Research suggests that goal setting is a powerful tool in increasing feelings of self-efficacy. Goals are linked to everything from higher motivation, to increased self-esteem, self-confidence, and autonomy [12].

Setting and achieving goals can also positively influence other variables such as personality traits, confidence giving feedback and participating in decision making, and job autonomy.

6. Get out what you put in – eat better for self-esteem

We all know that when we feel happier and more energised we eat better. And while a sugary treat might give you a short-term hit, many people overlook the highs and lows that come with sugary foods.

Instead, aim to focus most of your intake on high-quality proteins, healthy fats and lots of fruits and vegetables. You’ll stay focused for longer and feel far more resilient to life’s challenges.

7. Invest in a personal trainer to boost your self-confidence

Getting started with a life-changing plan can be incredibly daunting. A personal trainer can provide accountability, support and guidance to help ensure your time in the gym is well spent.

Ultimate Performance can give you the tools, accountability and skills to build your confidence and become the best version of you.

Female weight loss before and after

Read how Roshani shed an incredible 28kg and dropped five dress sizes. Now, her smile speaks for itself.

The take-home

If you’re struggling with your self-esteem, it can feel lonely, distressing and downright miserable.

But by taking back control of your body through smart, consistent training you can put a stop to the negative self-talk and release the sexiest, smartest, most kick-ass version of you.

If you’re unsure where to start, join the countless other women who have taken back control of their confidence with Ultimate Performance.


[1] Mind (2019). Self-esteem. [Accessed 14.04.2022].

[2]Waschull, S. B., & Kernis, M. H. (1996). Level and Stability of Self-Esteem as Predictors of Children’s Intrinsic Motivation and Reasons for Anger. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22(1), 4–13.

[3]Hawl, N & Rupert, M. (2016). The Relations Among Social Media Addiction, Self-Esteem, and Life Satisfaction in University Students The Relations Among Social Media Addiction, Self-Esteem, and Life Satisfaction in University Students. Social Science Computer Review. 35(5), 1-11.

[4] Kross, E., Verduyn, P., Demiralp, E., Park, J., Lee, D. S., Lin, N., Shablack, H., Jonides, J., & Ybarra, O. (2013). Facebook use predicts declines in subjective well-being in young adults. PloS one, 8(8), e69841.

[5] Przybylski, A. K., Murayama, K., DeHaan, C. R., & Gladwell, V. (2013). Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out. Computers in human behavior, 29(4), 1841-1848.

[6] Przybylski, A. K., Murayama, K., DeHaan, C. R., & Gladwell, V. (2013). Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out. Computers in human behavior, 29(4), 1841-1848.

[7] Unilever (2017). Girls and beauty confidence: the global report. [Accessed 14.04.2022].

[8] Paden, W., Barko, K., Puralewski, R. et al. Sex differences in adult mood and in stress-induced transcriptional coherence across mesocorticolimbic circuitry. Transl Psychiatry 10, 59 (2020).

[9] Guszkowska M. (2004). Wpływ ćwiczeń fizycznych na poziom leku i depresji oraz stany nastroju [Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood]. Psychiatria polska, 38(4), 611–620.

[10] Callaghan P. (2004). Exercise: a neglected intervention in mental health care?. Journal of psychiatric and mental health nursing, 11(4), 476–483.

[11] Tikac, G., Unal, A., & Altug, F. (2022). Regular exercise improves the levels of self-efficacy, self-esteem and body awareness of young adults. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 62(1), 157–161.

[12] Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2006). New directions in goal-setting theory. Current directions in psychological science, 15(5), 265-268.

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