Story sponsored by Genesis Fitness.
When most of us join a gym, it's primarily for one reason and one reason alone: to look better.
For years, the fitness industry has been evangelising the benefits of getting back your summer bod, losing those love handles, reducing the flab on your tummy or thighs. Get buff. Get jacked. Get shredded abs in 30 days...
But, Genesis Fitness' regional fitness manager Lisa Mills says there is a far more fundamental reason to maintain an active lifestyle: mental health.
Ms Mills has a been a personal trainer for more than 25 years and has seen first hand the positive cognitive impact exercise can have. More to the point, there are reams of hard scientific data to back it up.
Not only does intensive physical activity help lower blood pressure, it also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 Diabetes, stroke and has been proven effective in treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety.
According to Beyond Blue, 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day promotes the release of "feel-good chemicals in your brain" whilst simultaneously helping with healthier sleeping patterns, which affect both mood and energy levels throughout the day.
"The endorphins and serotonin created by physical exercise give us a feeling of being happier," Ms Mills explained.
"In winter these levels actually drop because we're not going outside as much and we're not moving around. So, doing some exercise during the colder months is very important," she continued.
"That doesn't mean you need to go out and hurt yourself, it could be doing some yoga or pilates or even going for a walk out in nature. It doesn't have to be overly strenuous."
Working out is important for people of all ages. If you're middle-aged or in your senior years, Ms Mills said, every calorie you burn today is a downpayment on your quality of life in ten years time.
Similarly, exercise is very important for young people. Not only does it help with their mental health but also their self-confidence and happiness at a time when they need it most.
Exercise can also help with mindfulness, openness and helping people of all ages to feel a sense of achievement.
While there are many benefits to gym culture, Ms Mills knows all too well that there is a reverse side to it.
For some people, image can become far too greater focus, she says, often to their own detriment.
That's why her team at Genesis Fitness focus primarily self-improvement instead of physical attributes.
"All too often when we (as a society) think about gym culture we tend to focus on the physical fitness side and how we look," she explained.
"So, if we've got ripped abs or big glutes or whatever the trend is of the day... social media has a long way to go on that front too," she continued.
"Because if you look at what all of the young boys and all of the young girls are looking at online it's the perfect Instagram body. And, we all know that they've been filtered and changed anyway...
"That's why at Genesis we focus on what you can do with your body instead of what it looks like... We focus on getting people to just get in there and have a go....
"When you teach people how to move properly and they actually focus on their performance instead of the way they look; when you can get them to switch focus to the fact that last week they could bench 20kgs and this week they can bench 30kgs, or that last week they couldn't do as many push ups as they can this week, that transfers into so many other aspects of their lives.
"If they can gain that confidence physically they might then gain the confidence to ask their boss for a pay rise or ask that guy or girl out on a date or have a better sense of self esteem because - at the end of the day - exercise is a form self care. It's not about what society thinks you should look like."
With 7 clubs in the Newcastle/Hunter area, Genesis Fitness has the expertise to help. To download a free pass or find out more visit www.genesisfitness.com.au or drop into your local Genesis Club.
Story sponsored by Genesis Fitness.