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Seven reasons to work out that have nothing to do with getting the perfect body

It’s easy to buy into this idea that working out is essential to achieving that perfect body of your dreams. But this is a slippery slope that can quickly lead you into stringent, obsessive behaviors, and creeping self-doubt and insecurity. Exercising only in order to achieve a certain appearance will only spark comparison with others and takes the focus off of fitness as a way to achieve holistic health, which encompasses both mental and physical well-being. Exercise is something that should be celebrated for the health that it gives our bodies, and the strength we are able to build. So, here are seven reasons to work out that have nothing to do with the way you look.

  1. To relieve your stress

Try as we might to get rid of it, stress can be a pretty constant mode of operation in our daily lives, whether it is due to a pile up of classwork, job responsibilities, or personal anxieties. Exercise has scientifically been proven to be an effective stress reliever. It reduces adrenaline and cortisol, while increasing release a rush of those feel-good endorphins that is known to be so addicting. These endorphins are what are responsible for that “runner’s high,” and they do more than just reduce stress; they can also lower the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

  1. To experiment trying something new and exciting

Exercising can be a perfect time to really go out of your comfort zone and try something completely new, something that you may never have expected to try. Have you ever tried aerial yoga? Rock climbing? CrossFit? Pilates reformer? A workout doesn’t have to be slogging away at the same old routine in the gym. Instead, it can be an awesome way to do something fun, unique, and different. A new type of workout can be an amazing way to push your boundaries. Who knows, you may find something new you excel at, or love even more than your traditional workout routine.

  1. To spend quality time with friends

Working out is definitely not something you have to go solo. It can be the perfect time to catch up with a friend, and you can do it in a healthy way that benefits you both. A friend can also be an amazing motivation for encouraging you to push yourself in a workout, and he or she might be able to introduce you to an activity that is new to you and fun to try. Working out with friends also helps take that dread out of anticipating your workout, and will make you look forward to your workout much more!

  1. To invest in some great new workout clothes (that you can wear in real life too!)

We all know that leggings ARE pants. Investing in some great workout gear can make you feel more confident when you go to exercise, and it also expands your wardrobe (and who doesn’t want that?) Get some awesome new gear that makes you feel confident and good in your skin, and also pieces that can double for trendy clothes you can seamlessly transition from workout class to street (some great places to shop for clothes are here and here.)

  1. To explore a new place

Working out is not something that needs to be done inside in an enclosed, sweaty room. Use your time to get outside and explore! This could be a run through a part of your city you haven’t yet checked out, a hike through a place you’ve always wanted to explore, or a yoga session on a beach you’ve always wanted to see. Not only are you getting in your daily exercise, but you are also getting in some refreshing and rejuvenating time in nature.

  1. To get out your angst

I don’t know about you, but when I’m angry or frustrated, sitting around ruminating about it doesn’t do anything to help. All that pent up energy has to go somewhere, and exercise can be the perfect way to clear your head and center yourself. You can do this through a centering practice, like yoga, or you can punch out all your frustration in a kickboxing class… whatever you feel is best for you at that time.

  1. To celebrate all that your body is capable of doing

Your body is SO much more than the way that it looks. It truly is remarkable that our bodies are capable of doing so many incredible activities, and can be pushed to be stronger and more adaptable each day. Instead of focusing on the way your body looks, celebrate instead your ability to move, and the wonderful you are healthy, alive, and able to run, climb, stretch, and do all sorts of things we sometimes take for granted everyday.

Contact Maggie Harriman at mpharrim ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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