Slipping into your tightest pair of shorts with ease or reaching your "goal" weight feels awesome but if you want to stay motivated to make fitness a part of your life for years to come, you need to find things that inspire you to move besides the number on the scale. Muscle is denser than fat, so if you strength training on a regular basis you may see your weight increase as your body composition changes to be more muscle and less fat. Even if you exercise and eat reasonably well, there still may be times when the scale isn't your friend. Winter comfort foods, holiday indulgences or your natural body cycle throughout the month can all cause your weight to fluctuate.
If you use the scale as your sole means for measuring success, you're likely to wind up disappointed the instant that number goes up instead of down, and if you feel frustrated it's easier to make the decision to give up and skip out on a workout.The scale can be a good tool for recognizing long term trends in your weight, but there are lots of other reasons to put on that sports bra and get moving. Here are just a few for motivation on those days when you're thinking of staying on the couch instead of putting on your sneakers.
1. Because exercise is good for your heart.
Your heart is a muscle, and just like any other, it gains strength through regular use. When your heart is strong, each pump moves more blood through the body than the heart of someone who doesn't exercise regularly. This increased blood flow means your conditioned heart has to pump fewer times to get the same amount of work done, meaning your resting heart rate is lower and there's less strain on your heart. Regular exercise also lowers your cholesterol levels and reduces your risk for coronary artery disease.
2. Because exercise can help you live longer.
You can't change your genes. But regular exercise can help prevent and improve conditions like type 2 diabetes, arthritis and certain cancers. It may even help delay the start of Alzheimer's.
3. Because exercise will make you stronger.
Many parents say that they would do anything for their children, and they mean it. But knowing that if there was a true emergency you have the physical strength to pick your child up and run away from danger is excellent motivation when you're thinking about dropping out halfway through your last set of push-ups. Having the physical ability to move is a privilege. Don't take that for granted.
4. Because exercise can protect you against osteoporosis.
There's more you can do to protect your bones besides drink milk. Regular exercise can make your bones stronger and slow down bone loss as we age. Weight training is particularity effective at helping fight osteoporosis, as are high impact activities like walking, running, skiing or even jumping rope.
5. Because you'll sleep better.
If you're having trouble falling asleep or find yourself very tired throughout the day, the answer may lie in getting more exercise. While it might seem counterintuitive, the National Sleep Foundation says 150 minutes of exercise a week will help you have better quality sleep. That's less than three hours a week-- so make the time to move you body and enjoy a more peaceful slumber.
6. Because exercise is good for your mind.
Whether you're experiencing stress from dealing with major life issues or it's the day to day grind that's getting to you, exercise releases chemicals in your brain that can give you a more positive outlook and help improve symptoms of depression. While yoga can bring some people a sense of calm along with flexibility, for others being that still and quiet for any length of time only adds to their feelings of anxiety. But you don't have to get your Om on to reap the mental benefits of exercise. As long as you're moving your body regularly, you can lower your stress levels.
7. Because working out will make you a role model for your family.
When your kids see you making fitness a priority you're providing them with a role model of how to live healthy lives themselves. My sons are only two, but when they see me coming down the stairs with my sneakers on and water bottle in hand, they point and say "Running, run, run, running." I'm both proud of the fact that they are at long last using words and of the fact that they recognize my running gear as a ordinary part of everyday life in this house. When you raise children to view exercise as something that's a normal, natural part of what you do as a family, you give them power to view healthy movement as its own reward instead of a chore.
8. Because working out can give you a sense of accomplishment no matter what else is happening in your life.
When life is hectic, it can be frustrating to look at your to-do list at the end of the day and feel like you accomplished none of the things you were hoping to do. Making the time to work out and following through on that promise to yourself is something to be proud of. Knowing you worked out today can make you feel less stressed out about the things you didn't manage to accomplish and just might help give you the energy to tackle that list tomorrow.
Have Baby,Will Exercise is a column dedicated to fitness and health for moms, by a mom. As a former personal trainer, group fitness instructor and cupcake addict, I hope to encourage and motivate moms who want to make fitness a part of their lives.