Seeing progress can be a huge morale-booster, too—and that’s not only measured with lifting heavier weight (something that can be hard to challenge yourself with now if you have limited equipment at your disposal). When you finally bang out your first perfect push-up, believe us, you’ll feel like you can take on anything.
4. It might help you think more clearly.
Research indicates that exercise is good for cognitive function—especially helpful now, when many of us are feeling scattered. For example, adults who engaged in an aerobic exercise program for six months improved their scores on tests of executive function (skills that require memory, flexible thinking, and attention), according to a 2019 study published in the journal Neurology. A meta-analysis of 12 studies in Sports Medicine also concluded that strength training can help improve something called cognitive flexibility, or your ability to switch between tasks in your mind.
5. Exercise can energize you.
If you tend to have dips in energy (especially lately!), exercise might actually help with that—as counterintuitive as it sounds. 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. Researchers found that even low-to-moderate intensity exercise for just 20 minutes a day, three days a week for six weeks can help improve fatigue and boost energy levels.
6. Exercise can also help some people manage anxiety and depression.
When stress isn’t just stress, exercise can play an important role, too. There’s a host of research showing that people with anxiety and depression can find help in working out. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a healthy lifestyle—including getting enough exercise and sleep—can help combat anxiety, especially in conjunction with other treatments like psychotherapy and medication. The institute also recommends physical activity and exercise as a way to feel better during treatment for depression.
That said, exercise should not be considered a stand-alone treatment for mental health conditions—it has not been proven to actually treat a condition in the way therapy or medications can. Plus, it can be really hard to get motivated to exercise when you’re dealing with a mental health crisis. So, know that it’s an option that many people find helpful, but it’s not a substitute for standard mental health care.
7. Exercise can give you structure during a chaotic time.
If you’re one of the many people self-quarantining or social distancing due to the new coronavirus, you may be working from home—and pretty much staying there. That means the hours can start to feel endless, and it may be hard to differentiate work time from non-work time. Exercise can play a huge role there: Starting your day out with a brisk walk or run can help you charge up for your work day, or ending your “office hours” with a workout can help you transition out of work mode. Keeping a regular workout on your schedule can help foster a feeling of normalcy amid the chaos.
8. Exercise can mean better sleep.
Getting your workout in might also help you feel well-rested. In one study of 3,000 subjects published in Mental Health and Physical Activity, people who exercised at least 150 minutes a week were 65 percent less likely to say they felt overly sleepy during the day than those who exercised less. Plus, a meta-analysis of three previously published studies in the Journal of Evidence Based Medicine concluded that along with improving sleep quality, exercise can also help reduce sleep latency, or the time it takes to nod off. There’s nothing more heavenly than a solid night of sleep (and nothing more rewarding after a tough workout during the day).
9. It can give you an excuse to wear something truly out of character.
Workout clothes are just plain fun—bright colors, wild patterns, and oh-so-comfortable fabric, especially if we’re talking yoga wear. Chances are, you probably have a whole bunch of sports bras, workout tops, and workout leggings just waiting in your drawer (who doesn’t tend to default to the same pair of black leggings each time?) So take inventory of what you have, and see how many amazing new outfit possibilities you can come up with. Challenge yourself to mix colors, combine patterns, and try something you may not have dared at a crowded gym. We all need a little bright spot right now, so why not make your leggings one of them?
10. Exercise helps you show your body some love.
No matter what your reasons for getting your workout on, there’s no doubt that exercise 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?
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.