This post is another topic suggested on Instagram and I think it’s a great one!
Often we focus on exercise as a way to “lose weight,” “get a 6-pack,” or any number of reasons meant to change some aspects of ourselves. All of those things are great, but if you’re not happy with yourself the way you are, you likely won’t be even if you exercise. I’m a big proponent of the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” which means that if you’re physically healthy, don’t put so much emphasis on changing the external.
Try thinking about exercise as something you GET to do instead of something you HAVE to do. There are so many other benefits besides the external and I’ve compiled a list of some below. Let me know some of yours in the comments!
photo credit: Homegrwn Creative
1. Stress relief
I’m a pretty anxious person. It’s gone down significantly after I started taking an antidepressant, but it’s still there on a regular basis. One thing that helps me manage it is exercise. It’s one reason why my favorite workouts are high-intensity or Crossfit-based because they’re an hour that I can’t focus on work or life or the future. I have to focus on the present moment in order to catch my breath, lift something heavy, or just make it through that hour. It’s why I can’t do yoga.
Where I used to manage my stress by escaping into alcohol and whatever mind-altering drugs I could, I now have a whole variety of tools to draw upon, including exercise.
2. More energy
I normally work out at 6 am. When I get there I’m a little sleepy, but by the end I’m ready to take on the day. Exercise helps you feel more energized and allows more mental clarity than choosing a more sedentary life.
3. Less sickness
I can’t tell you the last time I got sick (knock on wood). Regular exercise helps keep your immune system running efficiently, according to the American Council on Exercise. It’s also reported that when you do get sick, the symptoms can be less intense than in those who do not exercise regularly. Make sure to give yourself enough rest, though, because overtraining can actually make you MORE susceptible to illness.
4. Better sleep
I have absolutely no problem falling asleep. I’m sure that’s not entirely attributed to my frequency of exercise, but I know that it definitely helps. By the end of the day I’m ready to wind down and almost as soon as my head hits the pillow, I’m out. I’ve definitely been through periods of insomnia in the past and it’s one of the worst things imaginable (to me). I can’t tell you how grateful I am that it’s no longer an issue.
Exercise is a great mood booster. There have been several times where I’ve shown up for a workout enraged at the way people drive in the city (I have a real problem with this) and then completely forget about it within simply warming up. I’ve never left a workout in a bad mood and I can say that it helps me stay more level throughout the day.
I’ve written posts about how exercise is great for helping depression and anxiety, but that it’s certainly not a cure for those of us who suffer from clinical diagnoses of these. If you find yourself still suffering with issues in either of these areas after maintaining a regular exercise routine, don’t be afraid to look for outside help. Exercise is not a cure-all and make sure you take care of yourself if you need to!
6. Social life
I’ve made more friends through fitness than I have in any other arena of my life. Friends I’ve made through fitness already have one thing in common — a love for exercise. You know that you relate on at least that level and even if you only interact during that hour at the gym, it’s another reason to help you make it a regular thing.
Friendships I’ve made in the gym have often translated to friendships outside of the gym, which is an even better perk.
7. Stronger bones
The two most effective exercises for building strong bones are weight-bearing exercise such as walking or dancing and strength-training exercises such as using free weights or doing push-ups, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Using your body on a regular basis can help keep it functioning well into our later years.
Every time that I get up and go to an early morning workout after debating sleeping a little longer or every time I push myself to try a little harder until the end, I leave feeling more confident. I’m confident because I’ve proven to myself that I can do more than I thought possible. I’m confident because I haven’t given up.
9. Better eating
Regular exercise usually means that I make healthier food choices throughout the day. I’m not likely to finish up a work out and then go out and eat something heavy and unhealthy. There’s still days when I love me a good juicy burger or desserts galore, but on most days I make much better food decisions knowing that I’ve started my day with a healthy workout.
10. Because you can
This one never rings more true than when I’m sidelined from an injury. No matter how many times it happens, I always slip back into being complacent about my ability to exercise. I forget that it’s a privilege to have working arms, legs, and everything in between.