If you’re like me, then you hate when people say things like: “You don’t need to go to the gym, you eat so healthy,” or “Are you trying to lose weight? Why do you exercise every day?” No actually, I exercise because I enjoy it. Yes, I’m serious. I like feeling like I’ve challenged myself, tried something knew and felt powerful. Wouldn’t you? And, for the record, I may love me some celery, but pizza and I go way back. Also, anything with chocolate in it can’t escape me. Ever.
Now that spring is (not really) here, I assume a bunch of us are thinking about those “beach bodies” we promised ourselves in January that we’d have by now. Abs. No flabby arms. Strong cheek bones. A tight butt. All of that may look great and all, but there is more to exercise, any form or level, than getting into “shape.”
Here are five reasons to exercise that have nothing to do with losing weight or fitting your new bikini bottoms (or snow pants, since it’s honestly never going to warm up).
1. You will develop confidence towards accepting and taking challenges: I work for an organization that puts on two massive events in southwestern Ontario, each once a year. Part of my job is to get to hear people tell me about why they participate. You know what they all say at one point or another? That they look forward to the challenge and to reaching a physical goal they never thought they could. Now, I’m not talking about weight loss or muscle mass – I’m talking about being able to ride 200KM from Toronto to Niagara Falls on a bicycle. I’m talking about walking 60KM throughout Toronto’s most diverse cities. I’m talking about experience. In terms of daily exercise, what would happen if you challenged yourself a little bit every day? If you held a plank for 10 seconds one day, 20 seconds the next, 30 seconds the following, and so on? SkyCoach, a consulting company from Belgium, says:
Basically looking past the familiar. It’s not easy, I admit that. Comfortable doing the things you know can be quite tempting. But what about the kick of doing something new, something risky, getting that new idea, having that insight? For me, that’s very addictive and I take the related stress with a smile. Actually, that stress seems to get less and less over time.
What kind of “new” person would you be if you took what you knew and each day you slowly spun it on its head until it came full circle? Think about it.
2. You will be less stressed: We all get stressed out for numerous reasons. We all have bad days. We all forget things and make mistakes. We all receive negative feedback. We all have the risk of losing people we love, some people more quickly than others (unfortunately). Life happens so fast that one minute we’re planning our 10th birthday party at a local bowling alley and the next moment, we’re signing a lease contract. When we go, go, go, we often forget to stop and give back to ourselves, because we’re too busy giving back to everyone else, which ultimately stresses us out (it’s a vicious circle). When we exercise, our bodies are expending negative energy and welcoming positivity with open doors. Taking even just 10-minutes to help your body and mind feel good can shift your overall mindset and teach you how to turn stress into motivation, which would in turn provoke even better care of your self (physically, mentally, emotionally and psychosocially).
3. You get to spend an allotted period of time with yourself, or at least dedicated to yourself: We’re constantly with people. On the way to work or school, we’re constantly bombarded with people in cars, in buses, in streetcars and in trains. We all blast music, we all sit obnoxiously sometimes and some of us have really private conversations in really public places (a big no no, by the way). Do you ever just crave even 15-minutes to just be alone, doing something for yourself? For some of us, reading is our calling. For others, maybe it’s cooking or listening to music. When exercising becomes routine, you’re basically fulfilling a promise to yourself to better appreciate yourself. If group exercise is more your thing, that’s great, too – you’re not only hanging with your besties while doing chest presses, but you’re also showing your body some love.
4. You’re strengthening your memory: Physical activity increases oxygen to your brain, ultimately reducing the risk for disorders, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, that may lead to memory loss. It’s the same deal for sleep deprivation: When your body doesn’t get enough rest, your brain cannot operate as well as it could when it’s rested. We know we crave sleep when we’re tired because our eyes feel heavy, our bodies ache and the thought of moving can spark tears. I, personally, get extremely cold and grumpy when I’m tired. So, why do we so often exclude physical activity into our daily routines because we’re just “too busy?” If we love sleep so much, we should also remind ourselves that exercise can help us relax at night. Just check out this article in The Huffington Post.
5. You may develop a strengthened self-image: Coming full circle and connecting with the first reason in this post, being able to progress in exercise (perhaps by slowly working up to a goal and being able to achieve it) can improve self-esteem and body image. The same goes for anything we advance in, come to think of it. How awesome did you feel when you learned all your ABCs? You probably felt like a boss. And, what about that very first time you tied your shoes? What happened to your insides when you picked out your first outfit and your mom applauded you for choosing patterns that actually matched? Just because we’ve grown up doesn’t mean life’s simple joys have to all be sucked away from us. There are still reasons to be happy and feel awesome.