How often do you think about your weight? If you’re like me, it’s probably too much. I used to let those three numbers on the scale determine how I felt about myself but now that I’ve lost weight, I’ve realized that it isn’t just weight loss that keeps me exercising. Yes, it’s empowering to know my own actions can make the scale go down, but there are a slew of other reasons to exercise that aren’t about weight loss. I think these 19 reasons to exercise can be even more powerful motivators to move your body than weight loss. Next time you are having trouble dragging your butt to the gym or getting yourself to do your online workout, re-read this list. (Bonus: Weight loss may happen as a result.)
1. Build confidence. Moving your body can increase your confidence in all sorts of ways. Respecting your body and giving it what it needs to thrive is a healthy decision you can feel good about. Getting in a good sweat session can boost mental clarity and silence the inner critic that pays a visit when you are worn out or tired. Plus, when you really rock your group fitness class, your jog or your online workout, it’s like you are dialing up your confidence in real time by showing yourself what you can do.
2. Live longer. Science has proven that exercise can reduce your risk for all sorts of diseases including cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Exercise also raises your good cholesterol. Yes, our genes play a role in how long we live, but exercise plays a significant role too and it’s a choice you get to make.
3. Eat better. When you make good choices about moving your body, it naturally leads to better choices about what you eat. If you just did a sweaty spin class, you are less likely to go home and order a pizza and sit on the couch. Most people want their exercise efforts to count, so that means following up a workout with a nutritious meal.
4. Improve your quality of life. Exercise makes you look and feel younger, helps you retain muscle as you age, gives your skin a fresh glow and helps you live with an optimistic attitude. The benefits of exercise make your body stronger and your mind happier. Now you can enjoy your everyday life more.
5. Reduce those monthly symptoms. Your workouts can reduce some PMS symptoms. Get in a sweat session and kick irritability to the curb, boost your mood and fight fatigue.
6. Be a role model. Legendary coach John Wooden once said: “Show me your friends and I will show you your future.” You can be a friend who is a positive role model. Inspire your friends to exercise; be the one who gets asked for nutritious recipes. If your Facebook feed shows some uplifting posts, some sweat sessions and some status updates about your fitness results, you can encourage more people than you might realize.
7. Get motivated. Say you work out for 30 minutes and you come back all sweaty. No matter what you do for the rest of your day, you know you worked your body and did something healthy for you. Exercise? Checked off the list! This awesome feeling is why no one regrets a workout. This sense of accomplishment will fuel your confidence and your ability to accomplish more things in your day.
8. Love your body. When you treat your body well it’s much easier to love it. Exercise is definitely a way to show your body love. You become thankful for what your body can do and how your body can improve. And when you make regular exercise a habit, you love the changes you see in the mirror.
9. Say goodbye to anxiety and stress. Exercise decreases negative emotions and increases positive emotions. Exercise can help you alleviate anxiety and stress by sweating out a bad day or escaping for a little while. Plus, studies show that exercise can work as well as medication to combat anxiety. Prescribe yourself a good workout.
Related: 7 Ways To Reduce Your Stress
10. Be good to your heart. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. You can ward off your likelihood of developing heart disease by exercising the muscle that is your heart. The American Heart Association says you need at least 150 minutes of heart-pumping activities a week to keep your heart in good condition.
11. Boost your immunity. The first line of defense against sickness and disease is to live a healthy lifestyle. Bolster yours with exercise.
12. Sleep better. Most of us didn’t have any trouble falling or staying asleep when we were a kid. Childhood is filled with lots of physical activity and outdoor time that burns up energy. Same goes for adulthood—the more you move during the day, the easier sleep will come to you at night. When you get enough sleep (about eight hours a night) your body functions at its best.
13. Get energized. Just like going to the bank to get money, exercise is where you go to get energy. Have you ever had a day when you wake up dragging but as soon as you exercise you feel like you could conquer the world? That’s the energizing effect of exercise.
14. Track your progress. I love to track my exercise. I circle the days I work out on a month-at-a-glance calendar. I write down the miles I run or the group fitness classes I attend. If I am working on my running speed, I jot down how long it took me to run a 5k. What we measure, we can improve. And it’s fun to watch yourself improve—whether that’s in speed, strength or commitment to your workouts. Find a way to track your progress that makes sense for your goals.
15. Get strong. As we age, we lose a percentage of the muscle mass we don’t use. Using your muscles means you can slow down, prevent and even reverse muscle and bone loss by working to gain stronger muscles and bones. When you strength train and build up your muscles, you improve your functional fitness—your everyday movements—and you can prevent injuries and falls as you age.
16. Challenge yourself. It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone, but when you challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone, the reward you feel is even greater. You’ll discover a new side of yourself and maybe even take it a step further by signing up for a race, trying a new workout or increasing your exercise intensity. You can do more than you think you can.
17. Become more mindful. Meditation has become mainstream for a reason. When you focus on your breathing and you pay attention to the present moment, you feel more relaxed and it often becomes easier to enjoy life as it unfolds. Exercise has a way of keeping you present, so you aren’t replaying past events or worrying about your future. Mindfulness with exercise can result in a more content you who is better at living in the present.
18. Practice self-discipline. If you do exactly what you set out to do, you have already separated yourself from the pack. Lots of people have good intentions and talk about what they’d like to do, but they don’t follow through with action. Every time you schedule exercise and you keep that appointment with yourself, you are giving your self-discipline muscle a workout. Knowing you can count on yourself feels fabulous.
19. Be happier. Exercise is your ticket to feel-good endorphins, more energy and a confident and happier you. Exercise gives you a brighter outlook. And if you round up some friends to join you, you can enjoy the perks of physical activity and the joy of social connection all at the same time.
Thinking about all the ways exercise can benefit your life can make you more likely to turn exercise into a habit. Just think of all the mental energy you will save when you no longer have to decide IF you will work out, you only need to decide, WHEN.