Most people can relate to a love-hate relationship with exercise. There’s the joy of finishing your first 5k or half marathon or the amazing way you feel when you’ve showered after a long workout. There’s the mental clarity you find when going for a run or walk in 70-degree sunshine. But there’s also the dread of trying to fit in a workout when your schedule is jam-packed. There’s the frustration when you plan on going to the gym but find yourself exhausted by the end of the day and push it off yet again.

It makes me wonder, does it really need to be this way? Why do we often dread something that makes us feel so good? And that’s so good for us? I think it’s like anything else. When we have to exercise, it strips the joy from it. But when we want to do it, we look forward to it and enjoy the benefits.

So why do we have to exercise? I think most people realize exercise is important for health. But in my experience, most people say they exercise to get healthier, but if they’re honest with themselves, they exercise in hopes of losing weight. Which is fine, exercise is a great tool for weight loss. But as I’ve explained in another post, weight loss is an extremely complex process and very difficult (despite what our culture and media continue to tell us). What I’ve observed is when people exercise solely in hopes of losing weight, they get frustrated. They begin to dread it. And when they don’t see the results they’re hoping for, they despise it.

One way to shift our mindset is to focus on the benefits of exercise that have nothing to do with weight loss. There are so many! When we focus on ALL the benefits, we’re more likely to enjoy doing it. In return, we exercise more consistently which makes us healthier.

So here are 8 benefits of exercise that have nothing to do with weight loss

Studies have shown that when sedentary people start exercising regularly, they experience less fatigue and more energy. I know this is a catch 22 for a lot of people who suffer from chronic fatigue. Many patients tell me they just don’t have the energy to exercise even when they want to. So yes, getting started can be a big first hurdle to jump, but think of being able to walk up and down stairs, play (really play!) with your kids, and just get through the day without feeling exhausted.

This is HUGE and warrants a blog post all to itself. Did you know exercise is an effective medical intervention for depression? (1) This reason alone warrants a reason for most of us to exercise regularly.

Anyone else out there a klutz like me? Guess what, we’re all aging, and eventually we will be old. There’s a reason we screen older adults for fall risk. Falls, even from a standing position, can be dangerous. Exercising consistently throughout your life will benefit you as you age

Bone health
Ladies out there, did you know if you’re over 30, your bones are about as strong as they’ll ever be? Your job now is to keep those bones strong by doing weight-bearing exercises throughout your life. This includes anything where you’re working against gravity. We often think of lifting weights but this also includes walking or running (not swimming or biking as those don’t use gravity to oppose them).

When I ditched the cardio-only mindset and began lifting weights a few years ago, it wasn’t long before I really noticed a significant improvement in my strength. If you don’t think this is important, I suppose you’re not holding a toddler on one hip, a full laundry basket on the other, and climbing a flight of stairs all at the same time. That task used to take my breath away, now I do it at least three times a day with ease. Don’t gloss over the ability to carry your groceries in the house pick up your kids without huffing and puffing or feeling like you might throw your back out.

If you’ve never participated in an organized race, make it a goal for next year. Just do it. Find a 5k that supports a charity you do. Join a half marathon training group. There are a million programs to get you where you need to be. You can walk it- I don’t care. But something changes when you cross the line of an organized race. It feels. so. good. Maybe you’ve never run a mile in your life, but I promise you can do this. My goal next year is to complete another race with my husband or kids.

Biometrics (health measurements) 
Exercise, independent of weight loss, helps improve your overall health. This includes benefits to blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol which is more important to your health than weight. I’ve written a full blog post on this previously. 

All the feels
There isn’t a medical term for this, but it’s a thing, trust me. For me, it’s not necessarily during exercise. It’s about 2 hours later after I’m showered and dressed. It’s the opposite of a “blah” feeling. It’s an “I feel so good right now” vibe. It’s energy to get through the day or get things done. If the workout is in the evening, it’s a complete sense of relaxation and mental clarity. I long for this feeling and for me, it’s most of the reason I exercise regularly.

Remember, if you don’t like it, you won’t do it. Don’t make yourself do something you hate. There are a MILLION different ways to exercise, find something you enjoy. Maybe do it with people you enjoy. Don’t be scared to try something new or sign up for a class. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

(1) J Affect Disord. 2016 Sep 15;202:67-86. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.03.063. Epub 2016 May 20.