To many, exercise feels like a chore. It’s used to punish us for gaining a little extra weight rather than help us celebrate our bodies. Depending on your health situation, weight loss might be part of adopting a healthier lifestyle. But if weight loss is your one and only goal, you’re going about exercise all wrong.
There’s so much more to exercise than simply losing weight! In fact, those who pursue a regular fitness routine for reasons other than weight loss are more likely to enjoy working out and stick with it. Quit worrying about the number on the scale and check out the countless other incentives to get your body moving.
Anyone can reap these benefits and many more when they complete just a couple hours of moderate exercise per week:
- Boost your energy levels: It might sound counterintuitive to gain energy by expending it. An intense workout is tiring in the moment, but afterwards is when you’ll start to see results. Exercise raises your heart rate, increasing blood flow and the amount of oxygen sent to every cell in your body. When cells receive sufficient oxygen and nutrients, you’re better equipped to make it through the day without that fourth cup of coffee!
- Improve your mental health: Exercise has a lasting positive impact on your mental health. Moderate workout sessions have been known to make drug therapy more effective and lower the frequency of depressed or anxious thoughts. Moving your body releases endorphins, a feel-good hormone that serves as the ultimate mood booster. Consistently high endorphin levels are key to overcoming mental health struggles.
- Restore youthful skin: Exercise can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles later in life. Scientists have discovered a link between age and telomeres, a type of structure within each cell. As we get older, telomeres get shorter. That’s what causes skin to lose its elasticity and develop wrinkles. However, people who exercise on a regular basis have longer telomeres and more youthful skin. In fact, exercise can even turn back the clock and help you look younger!
- Lower your chances of getting sick: People who get their weekly dose of moderate exercise significantly reduce the risk of catching the common cold. Regular exercise stimulates the immune system, so even if you get a stomach bug, the symptoms will be minimal compared to someone with a sedentary lifestyle. A lifelong commitment to fitness can also lower your risk for developing a myriad of chronic conditions. Exercise keeps your heart, bones, ligaments and cardiovascular system in top shape.
- Ease chronic joint pain: Endorphins are natural painkillers. Over time, those who exercise on a weekly basis may see improvements in their body’s overall function. Moderate activity has been shown to minimize chronic joint pain and help patients recover from injuries. But exercise can do more than that—older adults with an active lifestyle are less likely to get hurt and enjoy increased mobility!
- Improve performance at work and school: Exercise has been shown to strengthen both short- and long-term memory. Students who maintain a regular fitness routine earn higher scores on tests than their sedentary counterparts. Likewise, workers are able to stay focused and get more work done in a shorter amount of time.
- Become more confident: Many people assume that losing weight will make them happy. The truth is, weight loss is just an added bonus to the confidence, willpower and resilience you’ll gain as a result of exercising on a regular basis. The increased running endurance, strength, speed and flexibility that comes from hard work can help you realize what your body is capable of and be proud of that.
- One healthy habit leads to another: Your body has a built-in reward system. The rush of endorphins after a workout leaves you feeling positive, energized and ready to take the world by storm. It’s your body’s way of saying, “That felt really good. Let’s exercise again later!” Soon, you’ll realize that adopting other healthy habits can make you feel good, too. Whether it’s eating more vegetables or setting a consistent bedtime, the desire to treat your body right will bleed into other aspects of your lifestyle.
The benefits to exercise are almost endless—and most have nothing to do with weight loss. Some you’ll notice right away, while others take more time to kick in. If you have a hard time getting off the couch, remember that an object in motion tends to stay in motion. After that first workout session, you might actually look forward to exercise rather than dread it!