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3 benefits of exercise that are cooler than weight loss

I overheard a couple of young women chatting at the swimming pool the other day. They were about to go swim some lengths, and one of them expressed how she couldn’t really be bothered. Her friend reminded her “we’re just here to get skinny”, and that was apparently motivation enough to get them both out of the changing room and into the pool.


Honestly, I was TRIGGERED.

It’s funny that I found it so surprising hearing someone casually express this as their motivation to exercise - it was literally that same motivation that got me into the gym in the first place at 16 years old. It was the motivation that kept me going to the gym religiously for a good 5 years of my life. But thankfully that feels like a very long time ago now. I’ve come a long way, and I guess I just assumed that everyone else had, too.

Exercise means so much more to me now, and my sense of self worth extends so far beyond whether or not I look ‘skinny’. I don’t go to the gym to pound the treadmill and “earn my calories”. Frankly the very idea makes my skin crawl. I overheard a couple of young women chatting at the pool the other day. They were about to go swim some lengths, and one of them expressed how she couldn’t really be bothered. Her friend reminded her “we’re just here to get skinny”, and that was apparently motivation enough to get them both out of the changing room and into the pool.

Honestly, I was triggered.

It’s funny that I found it so surprising hearing someone casually express this as their motivation to exercise - it was literally that same motivation that got me into the gym in the first place at 16 years old. It was the motivation that kept me going to the gym religiously for a good 5 years of my life. But thankfully that feels like a very long time ago now. I’ve come a long way, and I guess I just assumed that everyone else had, too.

Exercise means so much more to me now, and my sense of self worth extends so far beyond whether or not I look ‘skinny’. I don’t go to the gym to pound the treadmill and “earn my calories”. Frankly, the very idea makes my skin crawl. My approach is very different now and is infinitely more effective than that of my early gym years. I feel better, I am physically fitter and healthier, and I am much more consistent. Simply viewing exercise in a different way has made all the difference.

So, 12 years on since the first time I ventured into a gym, what does exercise mean to me now?


Out of interest, I asked people what description of exercise resonates most with you. This was the outcome:



(for reference, getting YOLKED aka yoked also known as getting big/buff/hench/ripped)


So, 12 years on since the first time I ventured into a gym, if I'm not exercising for weight loss anymore, why do I do it? What are the benefits that keep me motivated to carry on?


It makes me physically capable.

Lifting weights for me isn’t a means of looking “toned”. There are for sure aesthetic benefits to lifting heavy, but they’re now just the cherry on top of what weightlifting really does for me. It makes me strong enough to do all the stuff I want to do and continue being able to do as I get older. It might not be glam, but I bloody love that I can carry my ever-heavier toddler around whilst ferrying a full load of shopping in the other hand. I love that I can run around and play without getting out of breath of feeling like my physical fitness is holding me back. I've had comments in the past about making sure my arms don't get too big with all that weightlifting, but if having biceps like Arnie is what I need to be physically capable to do the things I want to do and live the life I want to live?* I'd take that over simply exercising to be skinny any day.


It’s essential for my mental health.

All praise endorphins! Those feel good hormones that are released after you have a good workout are flipping brilliant. Exercising is stress relief, and physical and mental space away from things in my day to day that might be causing me anxiety. In the early postpartum months after having Thea, it was something that helped me reconnect with my identity as “Jenna” when it felt like everything else in my life (wonderfully, blissfully but downright exhaustingly) had become her.


It helped me heal a disordered relationship with my body

and with food.

After years of eating disorders and body dysmorphia, exercise - strength training in particular - helped me to heal. It helped me to appreciate my body for all that it is, rather than constantly picking it apart for what it is not. Sure enough In those “just here to be skinny days” exercise acted as an enabler for those disordered behaviours, but finding a form of physical movement that I genuinely enjoyed and empowered me to feel strong and capable became a huge catalyst for my recovery.


These are honestly just a few of the many benefits that come to mind when I think about exercise. I honestly believe that appreciating physical movement as more than a mere tool for weight loss is so much more motivating. A more positive, sustainable approach makes for more consistency and reaping way more benefits (including losing weight if that's your bag).


I hope you can head into your next workout feeling motivated not because you're"just there to get skinny" but because you know that this workout is a step in the direction of being physically capable and, most importantly, happy.


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