Exercise has well-documented benefits for mental health, including reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress.
Regular exercise is known to increase endorphin levels, improve mood, boost self-esteem, and enhance cognitive function. By prioritising mental health, gyms can provide a holistic approach to wellness that benefits their patrons both physically and mentally.
Creating a non-judgmental zone means fostering an inclusive environment where people of all shapes, sizes, abilities and fitness levels feel welcome.
Traditional gym cultures that focus solely on physical appearance or unrealistic body ideals can alienate individuals who may already struggle with body image issues or self-esteem.
By addressing the needs of all individuals and promoting acceptance, gyms can attract a broader range of clients and encourage people to adopt a healthy and active lifestyle.
Rose Ilunga, a resident of Milnerton, Cape Town, serves as an inspiring example of the rewards that come with commitment and believes in the importance of celebrating personal achievements.
According to her, self-celebration plays a crucial role in fostering self-confidence and self-worth, particularly for women.
By acknowledging and embracing their strengths, achievements and unique qualities, women can break free from societal expectations and stereotypes, and embrace their individuality.
In pursuit of her wellness goals and self-care, Ilunga decided to join Ignite Fitness, the local gym in Milnerton. Her primary objective is to lose inches around her waist and build muscle, aiming to not just feel strong but look strong as well.
Ilunga humorously adds, “I don’t want to be confined to a specific body type or size. My body fluctuates, and my goals evolve. I wanted a gym that would support me in my journey to success, a partner that understands the importance of exercise for all individuals.
“I found that support from the Ignite Fitness team. It's not about blending in but rather standing out and achieving the goals I've set for myself.”
Ilunga acknowledges that her fitness journey has been far from linear; in fact, she describes it as more of a roller-coaster ride. Like many of us, she initially made progress with the guidance of her Fitness Coach.
However, as time went on, she found herself influenced by online fitness gurus, attempting various exercises and diets she had seen on the internet.
“I was doing more damage than good at this stage in my journey, and I had to really have a pep talk with myself to get back to my coach’s plan to achieve my goals.”
She adds, “Going to the gym is not always easy, I am sure many can relate, but I always remind myself of the journey completed and the goals ahead and I celebrate the small wins. The vibe at Ignite certainly helps to keep me on track too.”
Furthermore, Ilunga stresses the importance of finding a gym partner, facility, or community that comprehends and values the creation of a safe, inclusive, and non-judgmental space.
This ensures that everyone feels welcomed and supported in their pursuit of fitness goals. According to her, this not only contributes to her personal well-being but also allows her to actively participate in a movement towards a cultural shift that embraces and celebrates all body types.
Heartbreakingly, what drove Ilunga to take action is a reality that far too many can relate to: the constant barrage of comments from family members, friends, and even strangers on the internet, criticising our appearance and perpetuating the belief that only the “perfect” bodies are worthy of being flaunted.
Yet, amidst this negativity, her experience with her own mother's hurtful remarks struck a deep chord within her. It acted as a catalyst, igniting a fierce determination to bring about transformative change.
“Every time I train, it's not just for myself, but to prove to my mother that I am not just capable - I am so much more than capable!” Ilunga declares, with unwavering conviction.
And the most beautiful part? She has noticed a glimmer of hope, as her mother's comments have given way to compliments.
“It warms my heart to see my mother showering me with more and more kind and positive words. It's like a breath of fresh air,” she admits.