Reasons to exercise besides weight loss

Written by | Health

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Image: Tom Kuest – Fotograf/Shutterstock

Advertisements, gyms, and lifestyle gurus talk about exercise like it’s a punishment for not being attractive enough, which is just one more reason why many people hate it. No one’s like, “Ooooh! Hair shirts are in! I better put one on.”

But there are so many reasons to exercise than maintaining a certain body type. Its benefits to your health and wellbeing are proven, and the workouts you chose don’t have to be grueling and uncomfortable. In fact, doing something you hate that feels bad is a great way to never exercise again. Once you find a workout you like, whether it’s walking your dog, a dance aerobics class, or flipping tires, you’ll reap many benefits.

Improved Sleep Quality

You know that thing where you’re paid to sit down for eight hours a day, and you think you’re really tired from all that hard work, but you can’t sleep?

It turns out that if you actually move your body until you’re physically tired, not just mentally exhausted, you’re going sleep better, at least according to the National Sleep Foundation study. Apparently, the effects of exercise on sleep aren’t necessarily immediate, but they are significant, especially over time.

If you sleep better, you’ll have more energy during the day and struggle less with powering through drowsiness. With that additional energy, you can keep exercising to keep sleeping well.

Better Mental Health

Scientists aren’t sure what all the biological mechanisms are that cause exercise to improve mood and alleviate depression and anxiety, but studies show a strong correlation between regular exercise and better mental health.

When you feel awful, it’s hard to summon the wherewithal to go to the gym or prepare for a work out, even when intellectually you know it’ll help. This article about how to try to exercise during a depressive episode may be helpful, even to those without clinical depression. The point is: do whatever you feel up to doing for however long you feel able, and that is exponentially better than nothing. You’ll still reap some benefits.

Screenless Alone Time

This point doesn’t apply for those who prefer workout videos or need the TV distraction to stay on a treadmill, but these days we work in front of screens, relax in front of screens, eat in front of screens, and communicate via screens. We’re all constantly connected, and it becomes overwhelming.

Exercising can be a rewarding time when you owe nothing to no one, and you can be left completely alone without a screen yammering at you and taking up brain space. What you do with that brain space is up to you, but I recommend not dwelling on your grudges or thinking about the crap you have to do. That’s letting other people encroach on your “Fuck off, World” time. Even in a gym full of people, you get to become a selfish island for however long you want.

Regular, Positive Socialization

Conversely, if what you want is to spend more time around positive people, group exercise is definitely the way to go. Sure there are classes with chipper, encouraging instructors, and those can be great, but they’re not the only form of group exercise. There are dog parks where people walk their dogs together, hiking clubs, rock climbing groups, hell, even getting in with your local mall walkers would probably work well.

If the socialization is the reward to you, then you get that positive feedback before you even finish your workout. As great as exercise is, positive socialization is also important for people to live happy, healthy lives, and one of the best reasons to exercise.

Last modified: November 28, 2016