There's this misinterpretation of workout culture—that it's a "fitspo"-only club meant to alienate and trigger anyone who doesn't align with traditional beauty standards. Though those impressions directly stem from the damaging and oppressive discourse surrounding women's bodies which, as a collective culture, we're only now beginning to speak out against. One popular athleisure company's founder said, flat-out, "Some women's bodies just don't actually work for it," referring to their leggings. I've seen so many headlines promising to whittle my waist, banish my fat, and eliminate flab. Such rhetoric is detrimental to the entire industry and subsequent community, one that is meant to help you stay healthy and feel good above all else.
So, I thought, why not come up with all the reasons to work out that have nothing to do with getting a date or losing 14 pounds in two weeks for the sake of someone else's idea of what looks good? There are real, science-backed claims that find spending time at the gym to give you more energy, help with productivity and mental clarity, aid in deeper, more restful sleep, better skin, and meeting new people, to start.
And here's the thing: You're allowed to want to look good naked. There's no issue in wanting to show off a body you worked hard for. It's only vital to remember that "good" is a subjective term, and no one but you can define it.
Here are 8 body-positive reasons to work out that has nothing to do with losing weight.
1. Reducing Stress
Tatiana Boncompagni, an Athleta ambassador and Sculptologie instructor says, "If you aren't running a fever or feeling nauseous but rather stuffy and congested (like you feel a cold coming on), it can actually be beneficial to exercise or engage in mindfulness practice. Meditation lowers your cortisol levels and moderate and low-intensity exercise can open up your nasal passageways and help you reduce stress." Fitness expert Christine Bullock adds that, in these cases, very low-intensity exercise (or even just stretching) is your best bet.
2. Building a Better Relationship With Your Body
"Because this move really requires you to focus on the squeeze of the abdominals and working from the lower abs, it is totally mental," Boncompagni adds. "I love how exercises like this help me build a better relationship with my body. They truly make me feel more embodied, more in my skin, and therefore more confident because I have a greater mind-body connection. So while I'm training my abs, I'm also training my mind. It's so magical. It impacts the way I walk, the way I hold myself, and the way I feel in my skin."
3. Dealing With Chronic Back Pain
"Conditioning your core, including your lower abs, is especially helpful if you suffer from chronic back pain (that's related to muscular imbalance or poor posture). People who are leaner are going to see more definition in the lower abs by amping up their lower ab training, but by no means is this a way to reduce fat in your lower abs. It has benefits far beyond toning," says Boncompagni.
Experts recommend incorporating aerobic exercise (such as walking or cycling), overall strengthening, core exercises and yoga into your weekly routine to best help with chronic back pain.
4. Preventing Osteoporosis
"Lift heavy weights safely and effectively—some women tend to not lift heavy weights because they're nervous to look [bulky]. However, lifting heavier weights not only keeps up your strength, but it will make your bones stronger and help prevent osteoporosis," says Jacqueline Kasen, a body architect at Anatomy.
5. Helping Maintain Motivation
"While it's easy to get hung up on both your progress and your endgame, just note that working out to find self-worth isn't just unhealthy—it's ineffective," our wellness editor writes. "That's not even to mention that if you're focusing on how good working out makes you feel rather than how it makes you look, you're that much more likely to avoid injury and burnout."
6. Creating a More Alert, Present, and Clear Mind
According to experts (and feedback from their many clients), morning workouts can increase productivity and energy levels. "A solid morning workout can help with productivity, mood, stress, and energy levels," confirms Burn 60 master trainer Katie Jo Zayon. "Most of my clients say they can focus better throughout the day after our morning workouts, and when they skip it, they see a huge difference in their mental performance."
Body by Simone founder, Simone de la Rue, agrees. "I like to say that a morning workout is better than a morning cup of coffee. Your body and mind have been stimulated by the exercise and you are more present. It's easier to be productive when you feel alert and full of energy."
Feeling anxious about a problem at work or at home? Exercise can sometimes really help. "Working out helps us find solutions to problems. Solutions come when we think and feel with clarity. Working out helps us access new brain neurons to support mental clarity," says Winhoffer.
7. Releasing Endorphins
"Once we get working, after the abs come in and the arms get stronger—something incredible happens," says Karen Lord, a certified Pilates instructor and founder of Karen Lord Pilates Movement in NYC. "A deep shift in mood. Science tells us it's the endorphin effect, and it's true—but it's a bit more spellbinding, a bit more exciting. It's the magic of change. Not just physical, but it's the forward trajectory that happens every time you start and stick with something good and physically new. I think in terms of music a lot.
"I think our brains act like a record spinning on a turntable. Sometimes the record skips and digs a deep groove that just keeps going in circles. I train people, and I work out myself to move the needle, dig myself out, to put on a new song. It works. Break patterns, and build better ones. The feeling you get is the life-changer."
8. Getting Deeper, More Restful Sleep
According to Heather Peterson, CorePower Yoga's chief yoga officer, "Exercise has short- and long-term sleep benefits" like "falling asleep faster, staying asleep longer, and being less fatigued during the day." While yoga has many health benefits, such as increased flexibility and improved energy, better sleep is another reason to try it. "Yoga creates strength and flexibility in muscles, which can help your body relax more quickly and help you stay asleep longer."
Peterson continues, "Restorative yoga helps you calm your nervous system and deepen your breath, which can be vital to balance the physical practices/workouts and daily demands of our lives." She suggests "Child's Pose/Balasana for two minutes, Child's Pose variation in which you turn your head to one side for one minute then switch to look the other way to balance out your neck, Reclined Bound Angle Pose/Supta Baddha Konasana for two minutes, and Legs Up the Wall/Viparita Karina for three minutes."
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