Name a health benefit you want, and the answer can usually be found in a good workout. Yeah, you might have started a routine because you want to lose weight, maintain a weight loss, change your body composition to build more muscle or train for a fun physical goal, but don’t discount just how powerful exercise can be for your head-to-toe health.
In order to truly commit to physical fitness, you must first understand the perks you gain by getting in shape. Understanding all the possible mental, physical and emotional benefits may help you dig in and prioritize your fitness goals, starting today.
Here are 10 things you’ll go through when start your fitness journey:
1. Your Sleep Improves
One of the most unexpected things that can happen when you exercise has to do with sleep — yup, get ready for a sounder night of slumber. First, a better night of sleep can improve your workouts by giving you the energy to do them so you can push yourself. Your body also repairs itself at night. Exercise itself also helps you snooze better.
2. You’ll Want More
Exercise newbies have a hard time believing it, but there will come a time when you crave exercise. It may not be during those first few days or weeks, but once your body becomes fit and begins to perform the way it was built to perform, you’ll hunger to hit the gym every day, and you’ll give it your all once you’re there. If you miss a day in the gym, then you’ll feel guilty and lazy enough to never miss again!
3. Boosted Confidence
When you’re not fit, it’s impossible to feel your best. Not being physically fit leaves you feeling…well, frumpy. Get fit and watch your self-image skyrocket, along with your confidence. Your confidence won’t necessarily push you into cockiness, but it will make you more enjoyable to be around, as it’s awkward to be around people who are down on themselves.
4. Better Mood
Whether you take a walk outside, try a HIIT workout inside, or do a yoga flow, exercise sends stress hormones (such as cortisol) tanking to give your spirits a little lift. There’s a reason why exercise is considered a natural antidepressant. After each workout, you can expect a better mood, ability to pay attention, and enjoy social situations more, which can also help improve your well-being. The benefits only build on one another so that you’ll feel even better after the next workout — and the next.
5. Your Gut Health Improves
Your gut consists of a colony of trillions of bacteria that play a role in mood regulation, immune system function, and even a healthy weight. And along with eating more probiotic foods (like yogurt or kefir) and prebiotic foods (beans and lentils, apples, oats) to feed healthy gut bugs, you can add regular exercise to the list of gut boosters. Regular cardio exercise may shift the balance of your microbiome so that more beneficial bacteria are present and increase the diversity of the bacteria. Researchers even say this gut connection may be one of the reasons why exercise, in general, is so stinkin’ good for you.
6. Your Body Functions Improve
Get fit and your heart will work more efficiently. You know that. But getting fit will get your other body systems in line also. Whether you’ve been struggling to think clearly on your feet, you’ve been plagued with constipation, or you’re always out of breath, getting fit can remedy all these issues and more.
7. Better Blood Sugar Management
Exercise is one of the most powerful things you can do to control blood sugar today — and in the future. One in three adults in the U.S. has prediabetes, but 84% don’t know it. Prediabetes is when your glucose (blood sugar) levels are high, but they’re not at the level of type 2 diabetes. When you exercise, your muscle cells soak up the glucose circulating in your bloodstream in order to create energy rather than storing it. With regular exercise, your muscles can better use this glucose, and insulin sensitivity is also enhanced. In fact, a workout will lower your blood sugar for a truly impressive 24 hours.
8. Stronger Bones
A strong skeleton is about more than just getting calcium: It’s also about strength training, too. If you are young, maintaining strong bones is essential in aging well and preventing fractures that can be catastrophic when you’re older. On the other hand, lifting weight or doing bodyweight exercises — starting now — will slow bone loss. The good stress from exercise triggers the formation of new bone cells, which makes them hard and resilient.
9. You won’t fear Sore Muscles
If you haven’t been physically active for a while or you’re trying a new workout, you may feel some muscle soreness, especially the day or two after your workout. Start slowly and gently, working up to longer and/or more intense workouts to mitigate muscle soreness and discomfort. And soon, you’ll be able to push yourself harder without feeling as sore (and will likely even start enjoying the feeling of being a bit sore from a great workout). In fact, by just the second or third time you’ve performed a workout, your body starts to adapt, so you feel less sore.
10. There will be setbacks and times you want to quit
Honestly, it’s not always easy to stick with a new workout program, and you’ll probably want to throw in the sweaty towel once or twice. No matter how hard you work, there will be setbacks which will test your dedication.
And sometimes, your dedication won’t win and you will miss a workout or two. But don’t let that throw your whole new routine–just get back on track when you can. Consistency is the name of the game.
To keep going, it’s important to build up your support network. Share your goals. Find a trainer. Join group classes. You can also set small daily and weekly goals to keep you motivated. And remember: we’ve all struggled to get started with something. You aren’t alone!