A lot of things in life are good for us, but they require a bit of work for us to attain them. That hard work shouldn’t be a barrier to us attaining those things. It’s simply part of the process that makes accomplishing those goals that much sweeter a victory. One of the things that are good for us that we still struggle to do is working out.
For some, we just can’t get started – we don’t know how. For others, you may have started but hit a barrier of some kind – you got injured and just haven’t gotten your groove back, or you hit tough times and couldn’t renew your gym membership, or you moved and couldn’t find a new community to come alongside you, or it just got tough, and you couldn’t push through.
Whatever the reason, working out can be difficult. However, the benefits of working out still vastly outweigh choosing not to, so it’s important to remind ourselves what we gain if we choose to work out, and what we’re missing if we decide not to.
Below are a few benefits of working out. Hopefully, seeing them listed will motivate you to try one more time, to set that alarm for an early start, and keep going.
Emotional benefits of working out
Exercise lifts your mood. One of the main benefits of working out can be reaped in how it makes you feel better. When you exercise, your body releases several neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are the chemicals through which messages are sent by your brain to other parts of your body.
Endorphins are one type of neurotransmitter released during exercise, and they aid in the relief of stress and pain. Other neurotransmitters that are released during exercise are serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These ‘feel-good’ neurochemicals are like a natural high that helps to lift your mood.
Mental benefits of working out
A positive impact on conditions such as anxiety and depression. Due to the brain chemicals that are released during physical activity, exercise can assist in stimulating parts of your brain that aren’t responsive when you’re experiencing a condition like depression. By boosting levels of brain chemicals like serotonin, your appetite may be improved, along with your sleep cycle.
Exercise can thus help with the relief of some symptoms of depression. Additionally, anxiety adds stress to your body with elevated levels of adrenaline which can damage your health. Exercise helps to balance out the levels of stress hormones to reduce the impact of anxiety on your body and mind.
Physical benefits of working out
Reduces stress. Stress harms our bodies. Too much cortisol, the stress hormone, in your body can disrupt most of your body’s processes, leading to sleep problems, an increased risk of weight gain, and anxiety. Exercise helps to reduce the amount of cortisol your body is producing and increase the production of neurotransmitters that elevate your mood.
Makes you feel good, energetic. As we pointed out earlier, exercise leads to the release of ‘feel-good’ neurochemicals that elevate your mood. This ‘runner’s high’ also helps to make you feel energized.
Keeps you fit. One of the more obvious benefits of working out is that it can keep you physically fit and able to use your body in ways that improve your sense of well-being and ability to participate in life. If you’re older, working out enables you to do things like play with your kids or grandkids.
At a certain point, doing ‘simple’ things like bending over or crouching down start to feel like Olympian feats. Exercise can help to reduce cramping and joint pain, and it helps to keep you flexible, strengthening your muscles and making physical activity a little easier.
Helps your overall health. Exercise helps many of your overall health outcomes. It can reduce the risks of developing issues later in life such as heart disease. Physical activity strengthens your heart muscle, and it can help you to keep your weight under control.
It can help reduce high blood sugar and high blood pressure which can result in conditions such as a stroke or heart attack, and it can keep artery damage from high cholesterol at bay. Doing resistance training, such as lifting weights or using resistance bands in combination with aerobic exercise can help to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol.
Social benefits of working out
In addition to the mental, emotional, and physical benefits of exercise, there are social benefits too. Humans are social animals. We were made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), and that means we thrive best in relationships with others because God is relational. If we feel healthier, are in a good mood, and can participate more in activities with others, that can afford us more opportunities to connect with other people.
Also, being in shape can help boost your social confidence, which can allow you to be more outgoing and willing to socialize with other people. If you choose to work out using a team sport such as playing tennis, touch football, or frisbee, that allows you to socialize and create relationships with others. Other forms of exercise such as walking, cycling, running, or jumping rope can also be great ways to meet and connect with people.
There are many benefits to working out, some of which we may not have mentioned here. If it’s been a while since you worked out seriously, one of the first things to do is see and talk with your doctor about what you can do. Not all forms of exercise will work for you because of past injuries or other limitations.
While aerobic exercise of about thirty minutes each day for five days a week will work well for most people to improve their circulation, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, and improve overall heart health, it may not be for everyone.
Or in your specific case, some forms of exercise such as swimming may work better than running because of the pressure running exerts on your joints. Whatever the situation, talking with your doctor will give you a clearer picture of what exercises will be best suited to you.
For those with limitations from their doctors, and for those without, it’s important to find what you love within the options available to you. One of the main challenges to working out is that it can be hard. If you don’t like the sort of exercise you’ve decided upon, you may be making it unnecessarily hard on yourself.
Exercise can be hard, but it can also be fun. Find what works for you, not what’s popular or what you feel compelled to do because it’s what you know. Feel free to explore and try new things. When you do, get started. You only get the benefits of working out if you’re doing it.
Even a minor change will go a long way. You can start small and work your way toward your goals. So instead of working out five days a week for the full thirty minutes, you can start with a couple of days and work your way up. The important thing is to get going and to keep going.
Lastly, you can start working out on your own, of course, but it’s important to find a community that shares your same love and to help keep you accountable. If you find other people that love the type of workout you’re into, that helps to keep you motivated.
The remarkable thing about living in our time is that we are so well connected to other people through apps and online forums. Whatever you’re into, from spelunking to brisk walking, other people in the world are just as much into it who are willing to share stories, tips, and encouragement.
“Jogger”, Courtesy of Alex McCarthy, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Stretching”, Courtesy of Scott Broome, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Resting”, Courtesy of Evan Krause, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Workout”, Courtesy of Karsten Winegeart, Unsplash.com, CC0 License