I’ve always been an on-again-off-again exerciser. I’ll go through a week or two of walking or jogging or Jillian Michaels videos, and then hit a dry spell.
But recently, I decided that exercise needs a more permanent place in my routine. My problem is finding the motivation to do it. I know some women put up pictures of ideal physiques as goals to shoot for, but that does nothing for me. I’m a middle-aged mom — I have no need or desire to shoot for a “bikini body.” If that does it for you, more power to you, but I need something more than how I look in a swimsuit to motivate me to work out regularly.
So I started looking for other reasons to work out. Here are 10 great ones I came up with:
1. You’ll be less moody.
This is number one for me. The one thing I notice when I’m working out regularly — or rather, I’ve noticed when I’m not working out regularly — is how exercise affects my moods. I seem to have grown more prone to symptoms of anxiety and depression in my middle age — not full on, but hints here and there. Exercise makes a huge difference in evening out my moods. When I start to feel that “blah” feeling in general, I know it’s time to start moving. It’s like magic.
2. You’ll sleep better.
Sleep is huge for us parents, right? As it turns out, regular exercise can improve your sleep quality over time. Of course, that’s totally negated by the three or four times your little darlings wake you up in the middle of the night, but hey, at least the hours you do get are better! Seriously, though, I feel like I need less sleep and feel more rested when I’m in a good workout routine.
3. You need to take care of your heart.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ve all heard this since we were kids doing the Presidential Fitness Test in school. However, since cardiovascular disease is still the number one killer of women in America, it’s nothing to brush off. Take care of your ticker and it’ll take care of you.
4. Oddly, it gives you energy.
It seems counterintuitive that expending energy would give you energy, but that’s how it works. Making your heart work hard improves your circulation and keeps all of your body’s systems running more smoothly. Just don’t overdo it at first, or you’ll be sore and spent. Work into it slowly, and give your body time to adjust.
5. It can improve your sex life.
You heard me. There are many reasons for this, including those listed above. Improved blood flow helps your body function better sexually, including arousal. Exercise helps balance your hormones, which combined with stress relief — hello! — can help you get in the mood more easily. Feeling fitter makes also you feel more confident, and the increased physical stamina doesn’t hurt things, either.
6. It boosts your memory and intellect.
Exercise makes you smarter? Science says so. I can’t say that I’ve really noticed this benefit myself (could be the whole working from home with three kids thing). But I do notice less sleepiness and brain fog, which is usually what makes me feel like I’m losing my brain cells.
7. You’ll keep more of your muscles.
Sadly, age-related muscle loss is a real thing. Somewhere around our 30s, women’s bodies decide to start shedding the muscles we aren’t using. Call it our mid-life minimizing, the downsizing of our deltoids, or the Komari-ing of our quadriceps. Basically, ladies, use it or lose it.
8. You’ll keep your bones stronger too.
What is with the aging and the decaying of our bodies, man? Like our muscles, our bones also start weakening as we age unless we exercise them. That’s right — you’re not just keeping your muscles strong by working out, you’re strengthening your bones, too. Take that, osteoporosis.
9. Everything is more comfortable.
Other than some occasional soreness from overworking your muscles, exercising regularly makes everything more comfortable. Sitting, standing, walking — your body just feels better. And you’ll probably notice that your clothes fit better, too. It’s incredibly liberating to sit down and not have your waistband digging into your belly.
10. You are able to.
If you are able to move your body, you should. There are so many people who would give anything to be able to walk, run, jump, swim, play tennis, etc. I had a condition during my third pregnancy called symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) that made standing or walking for longer than five minutes excruciatingly painful. I vowed then that I’d never complain about exercising again. Of course, I still complain (I’m a whiner, what can I say), but it was a good life lesson not to take for granted what our bodies can do.
The best thing I’ve learned about working out regularly is that it doesn’t have to take a ton of time. I shoot for 20 to 30 minutes of movement daily, and I don’t stress about what kind of movement it is. Turn on some fun tunes and have a dance party with your kids. Take a brisk walk by yourself when you have someone else who can watch the kids for 20 minutes. Turn on a TV show and do toning exercises while you watch.
We were made to move. Choose something to do and keep doing it. Your body, your psyche, and your significant other (see No. 5) will thank you.