Forget those pledges to drop twenty pounds before Memorial Day—it turns out that the reason most of us exercise isn’t actually the best motivator after all. Actually, according to researchers, having a weight loss goal alone can slash your odds of success by over half. Instead, researchers emphasize that we focus on the other amazing health rewards we get from just being active. In fact, finding the right motivation can make you 70% more likely to keep it up for the long haul. So next time you’re feeling sluggish and downtrodden because you haven’t dropped the ten pounds you’d hoped to by Memorial Day, focus on these positive factors:
- 1. Be happier at work—an active lifestyle can help you be more accomplished. A study conducted by the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom discovered that when employees participated in an on-site fitness program, they reported thinking more clearly, getting more done, and interacting more effectively with coworkers.
- 2. Improve your vocabulary—a single treadmill session can make your brainer. Getting your heart pumping increases blood flow, delivering more oxygen to your brain. It also helps to increase growth in areas of the brain responsible for multitasking, planning, and memory.
- 3. Get natural pain relief—rest isn’t actually the best way to relieve pain and stiffness in the body. Instead, since exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural pain reliever, exercising can help you feel better and also keep you less vulnerable to future aches and pains.
- 4. Feel good about yourself—a good workout will boost your self-image, no matter what size you are.
- 5. Lower dental health bills—flossing and brushing aren’t the only ways to prevent gum disease. In fact, according to a recent study conducted at Case Western University, exercise thwarts periodontitis by lowering levels of inflammation-causing C-reactive proteins in the blood.
- 6. Unlock hidden energy—regular exercise boosts certain fatigue-fighting chemicals in the brain, such as norepinephrine and dopamine.
- 7. Shrink stress fat—we’ve probably all heard about belly fat and how it’s caused by the stress-related hormone, cortisol. We’ve also probably heard that belly fat is the most dangerous type of fat on the body. The good news is that just two 40-minute workouts a week are enough to stop belly bulge.
- 8. Slash cold risk—moderate exercise revs both the metabolism and the immune system. A University of Washington study discovered that women, ages 50 to 75, who did 45 minutes of cardio 5 days a week had 33% fewer colds than women who only did one stretching session a week.
- 9. Improve vision—it turns out that exercise is better for your eyes than carrots. An active lifestyle can cut your risk of macular degeneration by 70%, according to a British Journal of Ophthamology study of 4,000 adults.
- 10. Reach the deep-sleep zone—a recent study, published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine, discovered that women age 60 or older who walked or danced for at least an hour four times a week, woke up half as often and slept an average of 48 minutes longer than sedentary women.
- 11. Never get Diabetes—walking 2 miles 5 times a week may be more effective at preventing diabetes than running nearly twice as much. Fat is the primary fuel for moderate exercise, which explains why walking helps to improve the body’s ability to release insulin and control blood sugar.
- 12. Eliminate belly bloat—the next time you’re suffering from muffin-top, resist the urge to plop yourself down on the couch. Exercising increases the heart rate and breathing, which stimulates the natural contraction of the intestinal muscles.
- 13. Clear out brain fog—exercise is linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease among older people. Now more recent research suggests that this is also true for younger people, too. In fact, Japanese researchers discovered that a group of young adults who participated in one aerobic exercise class per week had not shrinkage of gray matter in the brain after just 4 months, while the comparison sedentary group did.
- 14. Save your heart—exercise lowers levels of the inflammatory C-reactive proteins that are linked to heart disease.
- 15. Add years to your life—being physically fit can change how your body works.
- 16. Ease your ailments—exercise, such as yoga, can help reduce stress. Similarly, yoga has also been found to decrease compulsive eating urges.
- 17. Survive breast cancer—exercise reduces breast cancer risk and can also save your life after you’re diagnosed. Overweight women who were exercising more than 3 hours per week before they were diagnosed were 47% less likely to die than those who exercised less than a half an hour a week.
Hopefully these other health benefits of exercise will motivate you to get off your couch this summer and enjoy the weather, or your gym.