7 reasons to work out that have nothing to do with losing weight

Can we just put something out there? We are totally done with the idea that fitness and weight loss need to go hand-in-hand. There are so many reasons to work out that have nothing to with your weight, but the world hasn’t really gotten the message yet. Like, what is even up with those disturbing body-shaming gym advertisements? And hello, who has any patience left for that exclusionary brand of fitspo that glorifies one particular body type? These days, even fitness bloggers are pointing out the issues with how we see losing weight. The reality is, fitness is something you do for yourself, and there are so many incredible reasons to work out that have nothing to do with losing weight. (Hell, even the shoes can be inspiring!) Here are a few of our fave reasons to hit the gym.

A sense of achievement

Formal fitness programs are based on goal-setting. Whether you work out with a personal trainer, or on your own, you can track your progress between a starting point and a target. In the fitness world, we call these SMART goals: as in, specific, measurable, achievable, rewarding and trackable. Instead of focusing on weight-related numbers, try setting goals that motivate you to work out: for example, swimming a certain number of laps without taking a break, or holding your plank a set amount longer.

Boost your energy

Have you ever noticed that skipping a workout when you’re tired can lead to a vicious circle? The longer you stay away from the gym, the harder it is to get back into your routine. That’s not to say you shouldn’t take breaks! Your body definitely needs them, and sometimes that’s exactly why you feel tired. But unless you’re sick or injured, it’s best to keep up a regular routine. Working out consistently improves the blood flow to your muscles. The result? More energy, less fatigue.

Carry your own suitcase up the stairs (or be that awesome person who helps)

We’ve all been there: Staring down the stairs of a subway station, wondering how you’re going to get your suitcase to the other end. Usually, someone comes along and offers to help. And if we’re honest, it’s usually a dude. Now imagine how totally satisfying it would be to pick the damn thing up yourself. Tempting, right? It’s also totally doable. Pick two or three exercises similar to the motions of lifting and maneuvering a suitcase, then figure out the heaviest weight you can comfortably lift for 15+ reps. Then work your weigh up to however much your suitcase usually weighs.

Improve your sleep cycle

The right kind of workout at the right time of day can really help your sleep cycle. In fact, a study found that people who followed the national exercise guidelines were less tired during the day, and had a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality. So why is the timing so important? Basically, you can time your workouts to fix your biggest sleep issues. If you wake up a lot in the middle of the night, try an evening workout; if your problem is falling asleep in the first place, hit the gym in the morning.

An all-natural mood enhancer

When you’re depressed or anxious, exercise might seem physically impossible. Getting to the gym — or in some cases, moving at all — probably feels out of reach. But as much as it might suck to get started, exercise really can help. A 1999 Archives of Internal Medicine study found that regular exercise was as effective (60–70 percent) as Zoloft in treating patients with depression, and could help prevent relapse. If you’ve ever experienced negative side effects of an antidepressant, that’s really exciting news.

Improve bone density

Okay, so you might not be thinking about this yet, but it’s totally a thing, ladies. As women, we’re at greater risk for osteoporosis (hence the women-friendly marketing on all things calcium-enhanced). Drink that milk, eat that cheese, and work out regularly. Strength training — yes, with weights — actually helps to improve bone density, so you can feel like the bionic woman well into your twilight years.

Rev up your sex drive

First things first: it is TOTALLY OKAY not to have a massive sex drive. But if you’ve noticed yours drop — maybe because of your birth control prescription, or work stress, or just because you’ve been with the same person for a zillion years — and you want to change it, there’s an easy solution: work out. Once again, you’re going to want to hit the weight room. Why? Strength training boosts your testosterone, and we all know what that means…. There are so many reasons to work out that have nothing to do with weight loss, and they’re all incredibly legit. Here’s to a more body positive approach to fitness.