How many times have you heard the advice “just exercise more, and you’ll lose weight?” Well, go ahead and erase that from your memory. Here are three reasons why:
- First, it just doesn’t work that way (this Forbes article and this British Journal of Sports Medicine report do a good job of clarifying).
- Second, if it were that simple, wouldn’t we have less of a health crisis on our hands? There are so many other factors behind achieving your optimal weight, most important of which are controlling inflammation, balancing blood sugar, optimizing sleep and self-care, eating more vegetables and nutrient-dense whole foods, and drinking more water.
- Third, isn’t there more to life than just losing weight? The benefits of exercise are numerous, and so much more powerful than that number on the scale. I’m confident that once you develop a regular exercise routine, you’ll be so convinced by how great you feel that you won’t look back.
Here are my top 7 benefits of exercise (that have nothing to do with the scale):
- Exercise gives us body confidence and helps us celebrate our amazing selves! Can you remember the feeling you got when you finished your first 5K, biked your furthest distance, lifted a heavier weight, or completed your first group fitness class? There are very few instances in life where your effort is rewarded so linearly as it is in exercise. Pushing our bodies is a great way to feel proud of ourselves, and the massive endorphin rush doesn’t hurt either. There’s a reason why most of the selfies we see on social media are pre-, during, or post-workout .. it’s often when we feel proudest of our bodies … something I will always support!
- Exercise gives us stable, lasting energy. Research shows that a regular exercise routine increases feelings of energy and reduces feelings of fatigue, and if you’ve ever experienced a “runner’s high” or rush of energy after a great workout, you can confirm that this is true. It seems counter intuitive that expending energy would give you more energy, but exercise increases the capacity of your mitochondria (which help you create energy) and brings fresh oxygen into your body (which helps you feel more alert). On the rare morning when I don’t exercise, I find myself craving that extra cup of coffee or feeling sluggish in the afternoon. Starting my day with some heart-pumping movement makes me feel so much more energized and alert!
- Exercise is great preventative medicine for heart disease. Did you know that approximately 80% of cardiovascular disease can be prevented by lifestyle modifications like physical exercise, diet improvements, and smoking cessation? Simply walking (or any other form of moderate activity) for 30 minutes per day reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease dramatically, and relative risk of death decreases as you get fitter (see the chart in the middle of this article to make it super clear!
- Exercise reduces our risk of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance happens when we repeatedly eat more sugar than our body can effectively process, and our pancreas has to secrete more and more insulin to “take care of” the sugar (shuttling it out of the bloodstream and into cells). Insulin resistance leads to Type 2 diabetes and other complications. Exercising increases insulin sensitivity (kind of the “opposite” of insulin resistance … a good thing!) for 16 hours after the session, meaning that if you’re exercising in the morning, it’s covering you for most of your waking (and eating!) hours. A great thing!
- Exercise cuts our chronic disease risk significantly. Exercise has been linked to reduction in risk of dementia, cancer, depression, anxiety, osteoporosis, and many other chronic diseases. Longer, happier life? Yes, please!
- Exercise helps us manage stress and control cortisol. Exercise helps burn off a stressful day – it’s time for you, without emails, your boss, or your responsibilities hanging over your head. But the benefits go beyond just temporarily blowing off steam. Research shows that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression, and even those with anxiety and / or depression can reduce their symptoms by committing to a regular exercise routine. This is one of the major reasons why I personally exercise … my to-do list seems more manageable, my busy schedule more feasible, and my monkey mind just a little bit calmer when I’m exercising regularly!
- Exercise gives us a sense of accomplishment in an otherwise crazy world. How much of the day do you spend feeling frantic, behind, and staring at your never-ending to do list? Do you beat yourself up due to lack of productivity, or never feel like you’re getting enough done at work or at home? Exercising (particularly in the morning) is a great way to start your day knowing that you’ve already done something great for yourself and your health, and helps you feel in control of your busy schedule. Plus, it actually increases your productivity during the rest of the day! Need more help developing a morning routine? Check out part 1 and part 2 of my morning routine series!
There are SO many more benefits of regular exercise … it enhances memory, boosts your immune system, and improves sleep quality.
Now it’s your turn … Why do YOU exercise? Are there other non-scale benefits you’d like to include?