Six reasons to work out that have nothing to do with how you look
Research tells us that the mental, social, and long-term health benefits of physical activity are way more important than that elusive beach body.
Unfortunately, this time of year is infamous for workout regimes that claim they’ll help you build the “perfect summer body” by the beginning of June. As if promoting insecurities and perpetuating unattainable standards for body image wasn’t nefarious enough, this idealistic aim negates other, more valuable reasons to get moving.
So, if you’re ready to ditch the shame and guilt around getting active, here are six reasons to work out that have absolutely nothing to do with your physical appearance.
- Boost your mood
After a long school year, a Netflix marathon is probably at the top of your summer wish list. But after you’ve finished rewatching every season of your go-to comfort show, some exercise and time in the sun might improve your mood and energy levels. Physical activity triggers your brain to release neurotransmitters such as endorphins, serotonin, and norepinephrine—each of which contribute to those feelings of post-workout euphoria. The even better news is that exercising regularly can build up your body’s long-term resistance to depression, anxiety, and stress. Even a short walk outside is enough to set you on a path toward better mental health and emotional well-being.
- Get more restful sleep
Most students find themselves short on sleep at some point during the semester, but a regular fitness routine can help you make the most of those hours. Exercising three or more times per week can help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and spend more time in deep, slow-wave sleep. For the best quality shut-eye, try doing more vigorous exercises in the daytime and sticking to light yoga or stretching before bed.
- Unlock the key to better focus
Out of all the muscles you strengthen during a good workout, your brain might be the most overlooked. Moderate aerobic activities have shown to promote growth in the hippocampus—the area in our brains that facilitates learning and memory processes. Experimental evidence also shows that taking breaks in your schedule for physical activity can improve your attention span, problem-solving skills, and executive control. The next time you’re cramming for exams, a trip to the gym might make your study time even more productive.
- Set yourself up for long-term wellness
If sitting for long hours in front of a computer screen has you complaining of back pain before the age of 25, a bit of movement might be exactly what you need. Research shows that people who exercise regularly throughout their lives tend to have better strength and muscle mass in old age—in addition to better immunity, lower cholesterol levels, and a reduced chance of developing cognitive and physical diseases, among a myriad of other benefits. It’s never too early to start setting yourself up for health and longevity by incorporating some more physical activity into your daily schedule.
- Discover a new hobby
Working out might feel like just another item on your endless to-do list, but finding a form of physical activity that you love can turn gym time into something you look forward to each week. If you don’t know where to start, University of Toronto Mississauga’s Recreation, Athletics & Wellness Centre offers free drop-in fitness classes in yoga, paddleboard Pilates, cycling, rowing, and more. These low-stakes settings are perfect for trying out different forms of movement and finding out which ones feel best for your body. You’ll get to try something new, and maybe even find a passion to carry forward for the rest of your life.
- Connect with a community
Once you’ve found your favourite way to move, you’ll start meeting people who love the exact same activity as you. Whether it’s with your loyal gym buddy, a weekly fitness class, or a whole sports team, physical activity is a fun way to bond with others who share your interests. Not only will you reap all the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of getting active—you’ll come away with some new friends to show for it.
No matter your fitness or ability level, moving in whatever way you can is an important act of self-care. You deserve to feel your best, and to enjoy this summer in the body you have.