Is Working Out Selfish?

"The health of the people is really the foundation upon which all their happiness and all their powers as a state depend."-Benjamin Disraeli


    There is a deep seeded belief that some people have that working out is selfish.  They think that spending an hour or two in the gym a day is taking away from time that they could be spending with their family and that it is selfish to put so much time and effort into themselves.  A lot of times it might not be the person who is going to the gym but their significant other or kids who think that they are being selfish by spending so much time taking care of themselves.  I would argue the opposite.  I would argue that not only is working out and taking care of yourself not selfish, but it is selfish not to. I want to take a deep dive into this topic and hopefully give you something to think about and discuss with your loved ones.


    Why do people think it's selfish to go to the gym?  Why do people think that self improvement is selfish?  I understand their logic.  Someone who gets off work at 5 and has a wife and kids at home is giving up an extra hour or two a night with their family in order to go to the gym after work.  Instead of getting home at 5:30 they get home at 7 or 7:30.  By the time they get home it's time to eat and then put the kids to bed.  Rinse and repeat and you have gone a whole week without getting much family time together.  What message does this convey to the kids?  You aren't making much time for them.  They perceive themselves as not as important as the gym.  I understand where people are coming from with this argument, but I just don't agree with it.  Let me break down why it is so important for people to make time to workout, and then talk about why it's is in fact selfish if you do not.


    Let's talk about the benefits of working out first.  I have gone over all of these in previous articles but a quick overview will do.  Stress relief.  Better mood.  More energy.  Healthier.  Better quality of life.  Ability to do a wider variety of actives.  Improved self esteem.  Setting a better example of health to others.  Longer life span. The list goes on and on.  So let's break these down one by one.  


    If we go back to the previous example of someone getting off at work at 5 and going to the gym, let's say they go straight home.  They might have had a bad day at work and are in a bad mood.  Instead of going to the gym and getting some stress relief and getting in a better mood they go straight home.  They might be more likely to snap at their significant other or kids.  Or they might just sit in front of the TV. If they would have gone to the gym first then they would have gotten home in a much better mood and their time with their family would most likely have been much more pleasant and productive.  They would have more energy to play with the kids, instead of wanting to just lay on the couch and decompress from work.  Instead of getting 4 hours at home after work, most of which is spent decompressing on the couch in front of the TV in a bad mood, they would get 2 hours with their family when they have the energy and good mood to spend quality time with their kids and significant other.  Is it more selfish to spend 4 hours at home zoned out in front of the TV in a bad mood or 2 hours at home actively engaged in a good mood?


    That was a micro, narrow, daily view of a benefit of working out.  That is an important benefit for sure, but I think that looking at the macro, longer view of the benefits is when you really start to see the benefits of working out and why it is unselfish.  Quality of life is better.  You are able to do more things with your family that you might not have been able to do.  You can play outside in the yard longer.  You can go on that hiking trip on vacation you might not have been able to do before.  You can walk all day at Disney World without having to stop every 20 minutes for a break, meaning your kids can have a better experience.  You are healthier.  You aren't getting sick multiple times of year, keeping you stuck in the bed when you could be out spending time with your family.  You are less likely to develop serious health issues such as diabetes.  Your kids won't have to worry about your health (which they do a lot more than you might realize). You have improved self esteem.  You feel better about yourself which means that you will be able to love others better.  You will be setting a better example to your kids.  Kids whose parents take their health and fitness seriously are much more likely to take theirs seriously as well.  Do you want your kids to grow up to be out of shape and unhealthy?  Or do you want them to have a long, healthy life?  And finally you have a longer life span.  Those 3-6 hours a week at the gym that you are putting in are going to translate to 10-20 more years on your life (or longer).  Talk about a good investment.  You won't have to worry about whether you will be around to walk your daughter down the aisle.  More importantly, your daughter won't have to worry about whether YOU will be around to walk her down the aisle.  Do you want to be around to play with your grandkids and great grandkids?  Do you want your grandkids to know you?  


    I hope I have shown you how important it is to take care of yourself.  But I want to leave you with this thought.  If you aren't taking care of yourself then you are being selfish.  You are robbing your friends and family of the best version of you.  If you are in a bad mood all of the time when you are at home because you are stressed out, have no energy, low self esteem, and in a bad mood, then you are being selfish.  If you aren't able to play with your kids outside because you are out of shape or take them on the trip that they want to go on because you are physically unable to then you are being selfish.  If you are setting a bad example for your kids by being unhealthy and out of shape then you are being selfish.  If you are sick all of the time because you are unhealthy then you are robbing your friends and family of time with you.  And finally, if you don't take care of yourself you are not going to be around as long as you could be.  You are robbing your kids and grandkids of time with you.  If you are giving anything but the best version of yourself to the ones that you love then you are being selfish. If you are sold on the benefits of taking care of yourself but your significant other or kids are not then I would encourage you to tell them WHY you feel it is important.  If you explain to them all of these benefits then they will understand why you are making it a priority.  You might even convince them to join you!