For many of us, we head to the gym to lose weight. But, that’s only one of many benefits you can get from exercise. With so much focus on weight loss, it’s easy to find yourself losing motivation to go to the gym. These body-neutral reasons to exercise might be just what you need to feel motivated to head to the gym and move your body.
What is Body Neutrality?
Much of the focus of the health and fitness industry is on changing your body and losing weight. But, what if you could just be neutral about your body?
Body neutrality is the idea that you can accept your body as it is right now, with no changes. And, it’s not to be confused with body positivity, which can feel out of reach for many people. Body neutrality doesn’t require that you love your body as it is, just that you accept it. (1)
With body neutrality, the focus shifts away from how your body looks to what your body can do. The focus is on recognizing and acknowledging all that your body is capable of doing. Your body is a functional vessel and tool that you can use to navigate your life and do the things you want to do. (1)
When you’re thinking about your body in a neutral way, there’s no good, bad, right, or wrong. There’s just a body that can and does accomplish things each day. This shift in thinking can be refreshing after long periods spent focusing on how your body might look and what you want to change about it. But keep in mind that it can take some time to shift your thinking to this new, different perspective.
Why Be Body Neutral?
There’s nothing wrong with having goals on how you want your body to look. But a body-neutral philosophy can help you to find new motivation for exercising. Plus it comes with several benefits.
Being body neutral can help you:
- Build a connection between your mental and physical health
- Improve your relationship with fitness
- Feel less societal pressure to conform
- Gain long-term health from exercise
While body neutrality is only a philosophy, it can help change your thinking so you’re kinder and gentler to yourself and your body.
What Are Some Body Neutral Reasons to Exercise?
For many people, exercise is a tool to lose weight and that’s it. But, there are so many other reasons to move your body. Movement helps to keep our bodies happy and healthy, especially as we age.
Here are some body neutral reasons you might want to exercise.
Maintain Your Physical Health
A major benefit of movement that often gets lost in the weight loss conversation is that exercise is good for your physical health. You’ve only got one body and it has to last you all the way to the end.
Exercise is a great way to strengthen your muscles, keep your body flexible, and maintain the health of your bones, joints, and ligaments. Exercise will keep your body moving smoothly as you age.
Improve Your Sleep
Exercise can also help to improve your sleep. When you exercise, you use up energy as your muscles work hard and your breathing increases. By using up some extra energy at the gym, you might find that you have less difficulty sleeping. When you burn more fuel, you need more rest.
While exercise can improve your sleep, it’s important to note that it can also make you feel more awake. If you’re wanting to use exercise to improve your sleep, try to work out at least four or five hours before bed. Otherwise, the endorphins released during your workout might make it hard to fall asleep. (2)
Support Your Mental Health
Exercise can be another tool in your tool kit to support your mental health. While exercise won’t replace therapy or medication, it can be a great addition to your current mental health routine. It can be a great supportive tool for people who experience depression or anxiety. (3)
Boost Endorphins and Fight SAD
One of the reasons that researchers suspect exercise can support good mental health is that it releases endorphins. Endorphins are your body’s feel-good hormones. When released they can boost your mood and reduce symptoms of SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is common in the winter. (4)
Most people experience endorphins with exercise, especially exercises that tax your cardiovascular system and get you breathing heavily. But, if you don’t feel those endorphins after exercise, that’s okay. You may not notice them at first or you may just experience them differently.
Improve Your Circulatory Health
When you exercise, no matter what you choose to do, it’s likely that at some point during your workout you’ll feel your heart pounding and your breathing increase. While feeling out of breath isn’t necessarily pleasant, it’s one of the many ways that exercise benefits your health.
Your circulatory system is the system of veins and arteries that transport blood through your body from your heart to your lungs and organs. Getting your heart rate up gets your blood pumping. Which is how exercise can benefit and improve your circulatory system health. (3)
Give Yourself Joy!
While going to the gym sounds like a chore, it doesn’t have to be. Movement can be fun! Instead of going to the gym and forcing yourself to work out, when you’re body neutral, you can find ways of moving that make you happy.
To make moving more fun (and more body neutral!) you can make it communal or gamify it. To make movement communal, try taking a dance class, finding a walking buddy in your neighborhood, or joining a body-neutral Facebook group.
If you’re looking for a new way of moving and challenging yourself, look for ways of gamifying your movement. You can challenge yourself to walk a certain number of steps per day or set a timer and see if you can hold a plank for 60 seconds.
When it comes to body neutral ways to move, the best thing is to find activities that make you happy. Maybe it’s dancing in your living room to your favorite songs. Or taking a yoga or boxing class that makes you feel good. Or going out for a walk with a friend. If you do something you enjoy, you’re more likely to stick to it.
Struggling to fit movement into your busy schedule? Head to our blog for 10 creative ideas for fitting exercise into your routine.
While body neutrality may feel unfamiliar at first, it can be a great, healthy way to motivate yourself to add more movement into your life. And remember, when you’re body neutral, it’s not about how your body looks, but what your body can accomplish. Focus on those accomplishments and celebrate all the tiny, incredible things your body does every day.
And make sure to enjoy one of our top-rated protein shakes once you’re done! These shakes give you the energy and nutrients you need, making it that much easier to pursue your favorite movement activities.