1. Helps you focus
For whatever reason, working out helps you transfer the skill of focusing, and indeed it is a skill, to other areas of your life. You can’t run and bike simultaneously, and you can’t do a plank and a shoulder press at the same time. It teaches you that even when you multitask, you can only in reality do one specific thing at a time. And focusing on that one thing well helps you move on to the next.
2. Helps you de-stress
Whether you’re a runner, a yogi, a heavy weights kind of person, or all the above (which it’s in your best interests to always practice different formats), exercising your body will do wonders for feelings of stress. Although there is positive stress which most of us need in order to achieve things, a lot of negative stress makes its way into our lives. And negative stress is a sign that we are out of balance. Working out helps you to re-channel that negative stress. Moreover, scientifically when you exercise your brain actually treats it as stress, and engages in a fight or flight reaction. This explains how you feel better post-workout because it feels like you’ve overcome some thing.
3. Schedules your day
One of my favorite things about working out is that it helps you to schedule out your day and often helps in breaking the day apart. Whether you work out in the morning or evening, or do a bit of both, it’s good to have certain practices that keep you from passing through the motions throughout the day. Also, I argue strongly that because of this, it makes you have a more productive day overall.
4. Teaches you that showing up is half the battle
I go to a 6 a.m. circuit training class every Wednesday. To get there on time, I set my alarm for 5:15 (actually get up at 5:20), and walk in the (not so-) lovely Chicago weather for about eighteen minutes. I absolutely hate getting up for this class. And every single Wednesday I sit there and ask, “Why do I do this to myself?” And then the class is really tough, and by the last circuit, I am praying to baby Jesus to help me get through it. But you know what I realize every time class is done? Showing up was half the battle. Now apply that to the rest of your life.
5. Teaches you perseverance
Working out regularly can become a habit like anything else if you do it enough. But I think the most valuable lesson I have always got, and especially from running, is the ability to persevere. The ability to keep going even when you’re not sure how you’re feeling that day. Perseverance is the thing that makes you say, “Yes, I can,” when you think you can’t possibly go on. Perseverance is the thing that makes you finish what you started. And when you can take that perseverance into other parts of your life, you’ll realize that in any area of your life, it’s about moving forward, no matter how slow you go.
6. Makes you feel accomplished
A lesser-appreciated benefit of working out, I think, is that it makes you feel like you do something worthwhile for yourself every day. Now while I detest that it has become commonplace to treat working out as another social identity in which people want applause for (i.e. on social media), I do think it makes you feel powerful and like you’re achieving. I think that’s a good thing and it encourages you to keep wanting to experience that feeling in all that you do.
7. Helps you notice small improvements
In many areas of life, we often lose perspective because we fail to see the small changes that make a difference. But working out reminds you of the importance of these small changes. Ask anyone who’s ever trained for any sort of race. If you’ve never run a day in your life but want to run a marathon, you will probably start with a mile. That’s the beauty of working out. It can show you how quickly you can improve day by day.
8. Teaches you discipline
If you workout regularly and stick to a schedule, you not only build good habits, you build discipline. Here’s what I tell people, despite the physical and mental enjoyment I personally get from working out, I don’t exactly want to do these things almost every day. But discipline is not about what you want to do, discipline is about doing what you have to do in order to get you to your place of success. “The reason why people fail is because they give up what they want for what they can get today,” is one of the things you can really point to when you fail at many things. Let exercise be your example for discipline.
9. Boosts your confidence
The fact is as you’re getting into shape, and if you’re doing it for the right reasons, your confidence will most likely increase too. Working out is one way to get confidence without faking it till you make it. When you can do a head stand without support when you once couldn’t, or are killing it in your hip-hop dance class when you used to feel conscious, that confidence will go with you everywhere.
10. Makes you happier
Exercise quite literally makes you happier because it releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for happiness and pleasure. Aside from that, working out keeps you busy in a way that teaches you that sometimes you have to go through some pain in order to get to a state of happiness. Isn’t that a metaphor for life?
11. Makes you mentally tough
For me the single most important thing working out does for you, even more than the health, wellness, and physical fitness part, is that it makes you mentally tough. Exercise is cathartic and I can admit I have actually come to tears in some yoga poses or when I’ve been running or while pushing the limits while lifting. It gives you this mental release, and teaches you to test yourself, to do more than what you think is possible. And perhaps above all, to keep trying and to keep fighting because tomorrow is a new day. That hope, that courage, that determination, despite how many times you have to get up from failing – this is what being mentally tough is all about.