Even when you have the best intentions, sometimes, it can be really, really hard to drag yourself to the gym. Whether your bed or brunch plans are calling your name, sidestepping workout plans is all too easy when you’re feeling tired, stressed, and your willpower is running dangerously low. Finding the motivation to work out doesn’t have to be about getting stronger or leaner. Sometimes those are goals, and sometimes they aren’t, and there are a 1,001 other amazing reasons to lace up your sneakers or unroll your yoga mat that have absolutely nothing to do with losing weight. Here are 11 of our favorites.
1. Here’s something to smile about: Exercise is a happiness booster!
Endorphins, amiright? The link between exercise and happiness has been well-studied, and the results are very positive (just like you’ll be after some gym time). One study from the University of Vermont found that just 20 minutes of exercise can boost your mood for 12 hours. Cardio and strength training can both give you a lift, and 30-60 minutes of exercise three to five days a week is optimal for mood benefits, according to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
2. Feeling fit can help you be your most confident self.
Completing a tough workout, especially the ones you do when you’d much rather stay in bed, can give you a serious confidence boost. Sticking to your plan and hitting the gym (even when you’re not feeling it) can make you feel like you can take on the world.
3. And, it’s an excuse to buy a cute new gym outfit or colorful sneaks!
I mean, you could wear your favorite kicks or workout pants just to run errands, but where’s the fun in that? When you’ve actually, y’know, exercised in them, you can work them with a sense of accomplishment.
4. Exercise can energize you.
If you struggle with a touch of fatigue, exercise might be just what the doctor ordered. According to a study from the University of Georgia, the blood flow benefits from exercise help carry oxygen and nutrients to muscles, which helps them produce more energy. They found that even low-to-moderate intensity exercise for just 20 minutes a day, three days a week for six weeks can help with that can’t-keep-my-eyes-open feeling.
5. Working out reduces day-to-day stress.
Sweating it out in the gym is a known de-stressor. Harvard Medical School has shown that aerobic exercise helps curb stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline (as long as you’re not overdoing it), while also flooding your system with feel-good endorphins. It also ups the calming, good-mood brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine. So while exercise itself is actually putting low-level physical stress on the body, it can be pretty mentally relaxing.
6. And exercise can also help manage anxiety and depression.
When stress isn’t just stress, exercise can work wonders, too. There’s a host of research proving that people with anxiety and depression can find major help in working out. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, regular exercise has been found to help with various anxiety disorders, including panic disorder and OCD. Celebrities, including Lena Dunham, have talked about about how a regular exercise program has helped with her anxiety.
7. Working out also keeps your immune system up and running, and it’s really no fun to get sick.
According to the American Council on Exercise, keeping up a steady fitness regimen can protect you from getting sick by keeping your immune system in tip-top shape. Don’t go crazy, though: Overtraining can actually interfere with your immune system’s ability to keep you sniffle-free.
8. Exercise can mean better sleep.
Getting your workout in can also improve your sleep. In one study of 2,600 subjects, people who exercised at least 150 minutes a week reported a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality as well as better energy levels during the day, according to the National Sleep Foundation. And there’s nothing more heavenly than a solid night of sleep (and nothing more rewarding after a tough workout during the day).
9. Fitness is a form of self-respect—show your body a little love!
No matter what your reasons for getting your fitness on are, there’s not doubt that working out is a way to respect your body. Hey, it does a lot for you! And you’ve only got one–why not treat it like the amazing thing it is?
10. It might actually make you smarter, too.
While there’s no magic bullet that’ll turn you into a regular Einstein, there’s tons of research out there supporting the notion that exercise can make you smarter. Studies have shown that exercising can help you focus, improve your memory, and help you unleash some creativity. Read more about how exercises can give you that mental edge here.
11. And most importantly, keeping up with a fitness routine can make you proud as hell.
Nothing beats that post-workout pride high—you came, you saw, you conquered. Getting a workout accomplished is definitely a reason to pat yourself on the back, so be proud! Especially when you had to dig deep for the motivation to do it in the first place.