If you ask a hundred people why they work out, there would, no doubt, be far ranging answers, including mental health, physical strength, and the fact that some days the sweat just feels really dang good. Once people discover the way they enjoy moving, it becomes easier to stay focused and work up a daily sweat. However, if you’re someone who is new to working out, know that the benefits of physical activity extend far past the gym.
In addition to getting stronger, fitness trainers share the subtle lifestyle shifts you may experience. From being a better friend to sleeping more soundly, look out for these small, yet impactful signals your fitness is benefiting your lifestyle far beyond the gym.
You get a big-time mood boost
Blame it on the uncertain energy in the air or heightened nerves surrounding the global pandemic, but added stress is mounting these days. Exercise can help. When you’ve been active for a few weeks or months, training manager and instructor at obé Fitness, Melody Davi says (and plenty of science backs this up) you get a big-time mood boost. “For those who tend to deal with anxiety, moving your body daily, in whatever capacity, can [be helpful],” she continues. “It boosts endorphins, and other feel-good chemicals within the brain, which enhances your sense of well-being.”
You may also notice that during your workout sessions, your brain is focused on exercise and nothing else. That’s because it’s a killer distractor from negative thoughts, and the ability to focus on tasks will carry with you throughout the day. Studies have shown that cognitively, exercise can increase the size of the hippocampus, which is associated with thinking, memory, and concentration.
You’re a better partner and friend
What are you choosing when you decide to tune-in to a digital workout? Or go for a run? While yes, you are making your health a priority, you’re also choosing to practice self-love, according to Omari Bernard, an accountability coach and exercise physiologist. By reserving this time for yourself to become stronger, faster and happier, you can give more to people you care about.
“The more we choose to love, the more we accept ourselves for who we are, which ultimately improves our relationships and leads to the transformation of becoming our best selves,” he continues. If you notice you have more patience and you’re more in-the-moment with your friends or partner post-workout, that’s because you’ve given yourself much-needed alone time via your workouts.
What’s more, working out with friends or loved ones has been shown in many studies to boost performance and motivation to stick with a fitness plan. So whether you’re looking to go it alone and find some me-time or identify a new way to connect with old pals beyond the usual happy hour, remember that fitness leads to connection.
You’re drinking more water
Most of us understand just how important it is to drink water daily. Not only because the body is made up of 60 percent of H2O already, but remaining hydrated is beneficial for work performance, mood, overall health, and of course, workouts. If you notice that you’re drinking more H2O, it may be due to your active lifestyle, according to Luke Milton, the founder of Training Mate.
How so? When you work up a sweat, your body is losing water as a way of cooling our down. If this isn’t supplemented by upping your water intake, you could be at risk for dehydration. Making the habit of drinking enough water to supplement your fit lifestyle (and everyday lifestyle) can make your overall health that much more substantial and sustainable. “By having a regular hydration plan of drinking approximately two to three liters a day, you will feel way better,” he adds.
You’re sleeping better
Before you committed to a 30-day fitness challenge or picked up jogging, how were you sleeping? Did you toss and turn? Or struggle to stay rested? Now that you’re in the thick of a routine, are you sleeping more soundly? If so, Davi says your fitness routine could be contributing to how well you’re getting those ZZZs. “If you are someone who has trouble sleeping, daily exercise can assist with not only a higher quality of sleep but a longer duration of sleep as well.”
You can do everyday tasks easier
When you’re carrying groceries up a flight of stairs or standing on your tip-toes to clean the windows, it may not feel like a workout, but it is a test of your muscle fluidity and strength. If, after a month of at-home fitness sessions, you notice your everyday tasks are more manageable, then you’re likely doing what’s right for your body.
In fact, certified Pilates instructor and personal trainer Erica Ziel suggests incorporating functional movement into your routine to make day-to-day chores more seamless. These include squats, lunges, bicep curls and so on. And if you can, take them slowly! “When you slow down these moves and do them with accuracy and engage the right muscles, then those tasks become easier and easier,” she adds.
You’re sitting up straighter
Right now, as you’re reading this, how are you sitting? Is your spine straight? Your feet planted firmly on the ground? If your at-home workout routine is working, you may notice better posture. Samantha Jade, creator of Body by SJ and a master Soul Cycle instructor says this is because when we are exercising, we emphasize form, checking every muscle to ensure we are safely making a move.
“By focusing on proper body alignment, we can enhance and correct all the wrongdoings,” she continues. When you think about your form during your fitness hour, you’re likely to bring the same attention to the rest of your day, too.
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