Once you’ve been exercising for a while, it becomes a habit (and you can see my tips here for making the habit set in!), and you’ll start to feel “off” when you haven’t exercised for a while. For me, the boost of energy, stress relief, and self-confidence that exercise provides is plenty to keep me coming back over and over again.
- Benefits for your long-term health. It’s hard for us to focus on doing something now when the benefits are intangible and not instantaneous. But thinking about how my healthy lifestyle will improve my quality of life – and number of years – is motivating and exciting. Among many, many other proven benefits, exercise can increase your HDL (“good” cholesterol), lower your triglycerides, and help prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and so many other diseases and ailments.
- Increased energy and enhanced mood. Even if it means waking up earlier, I have so much more energy throughout the day if I’ve gotten in some form of exercise. Although the exact scientific mechanisms are still debated, it’s clear in many studies (like this one) that exercise can vastly improve your mood and give you more energy. Even though I look pretty sweaty, I always have some of my biggest smiles on in pictures where I’ve been exercising … the endorphin rush is a real thing, for me!
- Boosted memory function. Many studies (like this one) show that exercise increases your memory in both the short-term and the long-term. We could all use some improved memory!
- Weight control. Even if you’re not trying to lose weight, exercise is helpful in controlling your weight and keeping your body toned. If you enjoy eating as much as I do, having a regular exercise routine ensures that you can continue enjoying lots of delicious, healthy food. I often joke with friends that the reasons I exercise are 1/3 for the health benefits, 1/3 for the way it makes me feel (in terms of energy, mood, and confidence), and 1/3 so I can enjoy eating! (Of course, I certainly don’t encourage unhealthy, extreme attitudes like “I can only eat this if I exercise” or “I have to run x miles if I want to eat this”).
- Self-confidence. Like I mentioned above, exercise makes me feel good about myself, and studies show it does the same for others. Even when you’re struggling through a tough exercise session (like I am in this hilariously hideous picture), the feelings of accomplishment that you’ll get after you’re done are second to none.
- Increased productivity. I can tell a definite difference in my stress level and productivity at work between days when I’ve exercised in the morning and days that I haven’t. Studies (like this one) confirm that this is a real result of exercise, so tell your boss that encouraging his or her employees to exercise (via flexible hours, gym facilities in the building or included in workers’ benefits, etc.) benefits the company as well!
- Lower stress, anxiety, and depression. I think this one ties to many of the other benefits listed here – when you feel better about yourself, have more energy, and are healthier, your mental health will improve as well. Numerous studies (like this one) have shown the benefits of exercise on stress, anxiety, and depression. What better reason to exercise than living a happier life?
So tell me in the comments … why do you exercise? Which one of these reasons motivates you the most?