Regular exercise has been proven time-and-time again to be one of the simplest, most important things anyone can do to create superhuman health, longevity, and brainpower.
But, as trends in gym memberships show year after year, it also seems to be the hardest habit to develop and stick with on a regular basis.
Why is that?
Most often, it’s because our motivations for working out are usually strictly superficial. We just want to look sexier, be more confident, and feel like our bodies aren’t going downhill as the years go by. But vanity alone isn’t enough to make you put in the consistent effort required to get results.
When the desire to exercise is rooted in something deeper than looking good, you’ll tap into a far more profound fuel source to propel your commitment to getting fit.
When it becomes a practice of personal development, meditation, and undisputedly upgrading every area of your life, it gets easier and easier to organically want to make the time to break a sweat. A self-fulfilling prophecy of an upward spiral begins to occur.
Because, really, exercise makes for better everything: better body, better sex, better brain, better digestion, better moods, better decisions, better relationships, better impact, better aging, and an overall better life.
To help stretch your mind and include more benefits in your idea of exercising, here’s a list of ten reasons to work out that have nothing to do with looks.
Our modern world is training us for instant gratification and automatic everything (swipe right to a new significant other in the next 24 hours… get your groceries delivered to you within two hours, etc.). If you’re wired to expect changes and benefits in a week, you’re being set up for chronic frustration and a mediocre life.
Staying engaged with exercise keeps you grounded in the real pace of life. It reminds you that the best things grow over time and require regular tending, like a garden. Shit happens, and things rarely go according to plan. What you think will take 2-3 months might take a year, or more.
To win and feel fulfilled in the long game, you have to stay flexible (mentally and physically) and let life unfold in its own time. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be consistently taking action. It just means you need to adjust your expectations and stay engaged without giving up.
I would have never worked up to doing a backflip if I went off of how shitty my first training session was. I was ridiculously sore and felt completely useless for two full weeks after day one of training. Now, I feel like a fucking champion and can smile knowing I have that accomplishment under my belt for the rest of my life. Patience pays off in perpetuity.
2. Overcoming your mind
This is probably the biggest stumbling block for anyone who’s starting a workout routine. Your brain doesn’t actually want to change. It’s made to protect you and operate within learned boundaries. The mere act of engaging in regular exercise is already a huge win. It’s an act of defiance against mental laziness and the suffocating limits of your comfort zone. How many times have you given in to this voice:
“Ugh, I’m just so tired/sore. I’ll do it tomorrow…”
“Hmm… I don’t have THAT much time. I’ll probably feel even worse later if I went for a run right now anyways. It’s probably better I get a little more sleep instead…”
“This week is so busy. I just don’t have the time…”
“It’s been such a long day… I deserve to kick back and have a drink.”
Whatever it actually says to you, you know the feeling I’m talking about. We all create our own rationalizations to negotiate and bargain our way out of following through on what we say we want, just because it takes a little more effort than we’re used to putting in.
Once you overcome that initial barrier, while you’re actually engaged in exercise, you then have to confront that voice all over again while it’s constantly telling you when to quit, and where your limit is.
“15… 16… Ok, let’s stop at 20 pushups. That’s plenty for now. Plus you’re just not feeling 100% today…”
“Ah that’s starting to feel uncomfortable. Just let up and go back to a light jog. At least I’m here running in the first place…”
When you tell that voice to shut up, and push through, you’ll constantly be shocked at what you’re really capable of. Training yourself to push this voice aside transforms your entire life, not just your max lifts and run times.
In no way am I saying to ignore your body’s real-time limits. You should always listen to and calibrate your training intensity to the feedback your body gives you. But if it is your mind’s 24/7 chatter that is having you lean back from leaning into your growth edges, then it’s important that you’re honest with yourself about that, and push back against the internal lazy critic.
Building a business takes work. Sticking in a relationship and having hard conversations takes work. Pursuing your dreams takes work. Literally anything that puts you out of your comfort zone, or requires work, will summon that exact same voice (that Stephen Pressfield calls ‘Resistance’) that tells you to quit on the treadmill or squat rack. Practicing this single skill will turn you into a completely unrecognizable person after a year or two.
3. Cultivating discipline
To expand on overcoming your mind, showing up to work out cultivates discipline. Discipline is the quality of grit and consistency that has you sticking to a routine, or long-term plan, and tackling things even when you don’t feel like doing it.
Most people sit around waiting on motivation to help them accomplish something. But motivation comes and goes. Discipline is the workhorse that digs in and gets shit done, no matter what.
The trait of discipline is invaluable, and built over time by continuously practicing the last point of overcoming your mind. After a while, it becomes a built-in reflex and you’re left with the muscle of discipline. And according to ex-Navy Seal commander Jocko Willink: Discipline = Freedom.
Creating the sustainable feeling of freedom in our lives requires work and planning. Sometimes you have to sacrifice something in the present to create an amazing situation in the future. The ability to delay gratification is a superpower that arises from discipline. This skill is necessary to create the life of your dreams, or any circumstance that takes time and consistency to build (ie. relationships, careers, hobbies, travelling, and pretty much any desirable skill).
This is why your levels of success in all areas of life will massively benefit from regular exercise. As Richard Branson once said, “You don’t have time to not work out.” You will develop the power to commit to and follow through on plans you make, despite the changing tides of mood and fortune.
4. Better sex
Exercise boosts your sex life in so many ways. We don’t often think of it in terms of fitness, but good sex requires cardiovascular endurance, a little flexibility, and general strength. If you want to make sex last longer, be more intense, and more interesting, exercise is the highest leverage path to get there.
Working out also boosts your libido and has you craving sex more often, and generating the initiative to make it happen. Men can especially focus on targeting big muscle groups like the legs, back, and chest. Squatting, pull ups, and push ups are your holy trinity of testosterone boosting.
This point becomes especially important in committed relationships. Because once the automatic honeymoon lust wears off, you’re left with the naked truth of your biology and relationship skills. Sexual energy isn’t a built-in, permanent fixture in relationship. This is even more so the case as your body ages, libido slows, and you begin producing less sex hormones.
If you want a healthy, lasting sex life, there’s absolutely no way around exercise. If you want to hump, make your heart pump. Thank you, I’ll be here all week.
5. Better mobility
Mobility includes ability, flexibility, and being pain-free. Who wants to feel like they can’t do the things they love doing? Like going for hikes, jogs, swims, play fighting, having sex, or just walking through the park.
Feeling twinges of pain constantly throughout your day interrupts your train of thought, enjoyment of the moment, and makes you more prone to irritability, which degrades your quality of life and relationships.
So much of the pain and tension that interrupts our lives can be relieved or significantly decreased through exercise and some light mobility work. Even regular stretching and foam rolling still takes just as much mental effort as lifting weights. You have to make the time and endure discomfort to push through the other side and create results.
6. Greater strength capacity in life
As you get physically stronger in the gym (or whatever you do for exercise), you simultaneously get stronger emotionally and mentally.
Exercise not only helps relieve the stress that builds up in life, it builds toughness of every kind. You have the background sense of knowing that you can make it through pain and discomfort. You remember that shitty feelings and situations are only temporary.
When your mind has been trained to be resilient, flexible and disciplined, you walk with the natural confidence that you can get through anything.
7. Proving to yourself that you can progress
Exercising provides a constant reminder that you can grow and change when you put in the effort. It gives you something immediately measurable to boost your confidence and fuel your forward movement in other endeavours.
When I first started working out regularly, I had a decades-old belief that I was just someone who fundamentally wasn’t able to put on muscle. Being the uber-scrawny kid in high school, this mindset ran deep for me. But after three months of consistent effort in the gym, I started to see real progress on my body.
When I started to see results in the mirror, I had this overwhelming sense of, ‘If I’ve been telling myself that this was an impossible task for me, and I’m clearly wrong about that, then what else in my life am I wrong about?’. The realization of this all-encompassing mindset of ‘I am only as limited as I tell myself I am’, was intensely freeing.
It’s so easy to get stuck in an old, limited self-image, or get frustrated when bigger picture things in your life aren’t changing in the ways you want them to. Commitment to exercise, and expanding your athletic abilities, keeps your spirit supple and prevents all those hard feelings from solidifying into a restrictive shell.
8. Mental health
The quality of your thoughts and moods (psychology) are heavily influenced by your physiology. Exercise triggers flushes of “feel good” chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These boost your mood, make you feel happy, reduce pain, and improve your cognitive functioning.
This changes the way you think and make decisions, which dictates the course of your entire life.
While exercise optimizes your quality of mind in the present, it also secures it for the future, by stimulating the creation of new brain cells, and supporting your long-term memory.
9. Higher quality of life in later years
The work you put in now will mean the difference between being a senile, couch-ridden turd, or an active, healthy gem of a senior.
So many people spend their best physical years slaving away so they can experience freedom in the last chapters of their life. But this lifestyle will cause both physical and spiritual decay. Your quality of life is not only lowered by your health, but the realizations that do or don’t haunt you about how you spent your life. Did you enjoy the moment and do what you knew was best for you?
Exercise and mobility training is crucial to healthy aging on many levels. Not only will it actually slow the course of biological aging, and decrease mobility limitations, it will prevent the development of chronic illnesses and pain causes by an unhealthy nervous system. Which leads to the final point…
10. Fending off degenerative diseases
According to modern neuroscience, exercise is the best defence against degenerative diseases and cognitive decline, like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and many others.
This is because working out builds up the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus in the brain, which are the key regions involved in thinking, memory, and your sense of self.
So your ability to make decisions, take care yourself, and generally enjoy life, is massively impacted by exercise.
Do you really need any more reason to get sweating? Hopefully now you have a new sense of just how profound exercise is on your entire life.
Some people say, “If you want to get swole, you gotta pay the toll.” But I say, “If you want to get swole, do it in a way that respects your body when it eventually gets old.” Not as catchy, but hey, fuck me, right?
If you could start doing one thing today to improve your life in every single area, exercise is the answer.
While three to four 30-minute long workouts per week are the recommended minimum, you don’t have to start there. At all. If you need to, begin with just one thing you know could do each week. Try to make it on the same time and day. Successfully developing an exercise routine should be slow, fun, and sustainable.
Maybe you do a drop in at your local community centre gym, hit a power yoga class, learn self-defence, go for a hike, jog, or do some calisthenics at home. Whatever it is, you’ll likely feel a significant difference in that part your week, which will naturally make you want to do it more.
Gradually increase the frequency, intensity and diversity of your exercise over time to continue growing and keep things interesting. Soon, you’ll be addicted, and nothing will ever be the same.
If you want additional thoughts on how to get in the habit of loving exercise, the book Atomic Habits by James Clear is an absolute game changer. It goes into the specific things you need to do to make any habit easier in your life, and I single-handedly blame this book for getting me from a place of hating the gym to genuinely craving it on a consistent basis. I literally haven’t missed a workout since I read this book six months ago, so yeah, there’s that.
All the best!
Dedicated to your success,
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