A radical new approach to thinking about our weight and health
Oftentimes when we think about exercise, we are focused on losing weight. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but when we look at exercise this way, we are undercutting many of the health benefits we get from working out. Not to mention that this view tends to be influenced by ideas that we’ve learned about an “ideal” body size from toxic diet culture. It’s time to let go of a mindset that is holding us back from reaching our true potential by reframing our relationship with exercise and weight.
Here are 5 ways that working out has an outsized impact on our health that go far beyond losing weight.
1. Exercise is good for bone health.
Our bones are a lot like our muscles in the sense that they are made out of living tissue can be strengthened through exerce. Some exercises that are great for our bones include weight-bearing exercises such as walking, hiking, jogging, and dancing (read about the other health benefits of dancing here). Resistance exercises such as lifting weights or using resistance bands are another great way of strengthening our bones. Engaging in these forms of exercise is especially important for women because we’re more likely to lose a significant amount of bone density as we age, which can lead to conditions like osteoporosis. Bone density loss can begin as early as age 20, so it’s important to start protecting our bone health asap.
2. Exercise improves cognition.
Studies have shown that physical exercise is associated with improvements in learning and memory, attention, and coordination (see findings from this study), which may have long-term effects long after our workout.
3. Exercise is a natural way to boost our mood.
When we exercise, our bodies release several “feel-good” hormones referred to as endorphins. This feeling can be especially intense when we engage in high-intensity exercises, but many of us will get a feeling of relaxation and calmness even through moderately intense workouts as well.
Exercise can also help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, in as little time as 10–15 minutes.
4. Exercise strengthens our immunity.
There are several ways that exercise can protect us from certain illnesses, such as the flu and the common cold. One way may be through our heavy breathing, which may help flush out bacteria that are in our lungs and airways.
Exercise also raises our body temperature and may also help us circulate antibodies and white blood cells, which helps us fight and prevent infections.
5. Exercise can improve our quality of sleep.
Scientists have found that regular exercise can be just as effective as prescription sleep medications by helping us reduce stress and anxiety and by simply tiring us out.
The key here though is regular exercise. For some people, working out later in the day can actually prevent them from falling asleep. Once you develop a habit of exercising, this doesn’t seem to be an issue.
Our fitness routine is so much more than just a torturous activity that’s required for losing weight. By changing our mindset, we can start to see exercise as a fun and empowering ritual that has lifelong benefits for our minds and bodies.