Once we leave the childhood innocence of playing football or stuck in the mud in a field behind, exercise shifts from a playtime activity to becoming, for many, about weight loss. I think we’ve all been there, trying to make up for excessive pizza and alcohol but hitting the gym the next day. For me now, however, exercise has become about so much more. Exercise is about so much more than weight loss, and has huge physical and mental health benefits. Focusing on these will enable us to have a much healthier relationship with exercise.
Here are my top 5 non-aesthetic reasons to workout:
1. Working out reduces stress and anxiety
Studies have shown that exercise is immensely beneficial for anxiety and depression. When cortisol (our stress hormone) rises, our response is ‘fight or flight mode’. Our bodies are primed for attack but of course today’s stresses often come in the form of a full inbox or a busy tube. Exercise acts as the fight, giving the body that physical workout needed to ease it out of fight or flight mode. That’s the sciency stuff. However, it doesn’t mean that going mad in the gym everyday is going to always have a positive impact.
I am one of those people who operate with low level anxiety on a daily basis, and it’s all about working with and understanding your body and what it needs. Sometimes I need to go to Kobox and punch out all my energy for that huge endorphin high. Sometimes I’m burnt out and I need a yoga session just to calm my central nervous system down a bit so I can actually embrace relaxation. Some people go on a long run or for a walk to clear their head. It’s easy to tell you to listen to your body, but try to simply be aware of how exercise makes you feel!
2. Working out makes me feel strong and confident
Working out makes me feel like a badass- empowered, strong and uplifted. Once you get comfortable with the weights section in the gym (I know we all start out having no clue), you can dominate that space. Exercise is for fun, but it’s also a practice. The more you do certain exercises, or a certain sport, the better you get at it- the heavier you can lift, the more accurately you can punch etc. I feel happy and confident in myself, and that radiates into every aspect of my life. This means I can eat all that I want to without feeling sluggish and bloated and full.
3. Working out helps my digestion
I feel like a large proportion of the population deal with bloating. My digestion can be all over the place, with food intolerances and bloating, much of which can be put down simply to stress. Lowering my cortisol levels not only helps digestion through relaxation, but a workout in the morning kick starts my metabolism and gets me ready to really enjoy breakfast. I get home from work quite late, so end up eating around 9pm. This means often I’m still full in the morning. Luckily a workout before dinner boosts my metabolism for the night, or a workout in the morning kick starts it for the day.
4. Working out is a complete mood booster
Sometimes, when I’ve felt really anxious and low, I’ve gone to a workout class and come out like a completely different person! For some, getting into the gym on their own, headphones on and smashing out their personal goals is a huge mood and confidence booster! For me, getting into a workout class and soaking in all the energy and positive vibes is what boosts my mood. There’s nothing better than sweat, good vibes and high energy.
5. Working out helps my body work at its optimum
I see health as my body working at its optimum. That means good sleep, reduced anxiety, good digestion, a good immune system, having energy, feeling happy. Working out helps me with ALL OF THIS. When I workout regularly, my body gets into a routine. My metabolism is high so my digestion works efficiently, my energy is boosted post workout but I am worn out enough to sleep well at night. It boosts my concentration and productivity at work and I feel healthy in all aspects of life. Working out makes me want to take care of my body. I sleep well to have enough energy to workout, which makes me a happy positive person, enthusiastic about my day- drinking lots of water, eating lots of yummy food to fuel my muscles and generally working at my optimum! I don’t put pressure on myself to work out. If I need a rest I take one. But generally it is what makes me feel my best!