Of course, exercise doesn’t represent a standalone treatment for serious conditions like anxiety and depression, though it can go hand in hand with other treatments, says Michele Kerulis, Ed.D., L.C.P.C., a professor of counseling and sport psychology at Northwestern University’s Family Institute. You should still seek help from a medical professional if you’re overwhelmed or thinking about hurting yourself or others. (Here’s how to find a therapist that works for you.) And if you’re in a crisis, you can text HOME to 741741, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or chat at crisistextline.org.
Even if you’re just a little down in the dumps, movement can lift you up. A short-term boost of endorphins often follows a run or high-intensity interval session.
15. You took a step in managing a physical condition.
Of course, exercise also benefits people with a wide range of physical ailments, from arthritis to heart conditions. And while some of these perks add up over time, others can appear after a single session.
For people with type 2 diabetes, even 15 minutes of movement after a meal can have an instant impact on blood glucose management, Oerum says. Physical activity can also increase your insulin sensitivity; this means your blood sugar will come down by itself more efficiently, and if you use insulin, you’ll need less of it.
“A benchmark of success is knowing that, by engaging in this physical activity, you’re taking that one step further in managing health issues,” Carter says.
16. You created space for yourself in a tumultuous time.
“We’re living in a year, 2020, where we are bombarded with news, information, and traumatic experiences—people are experiencing deep traumas within their life, within their communities,” Carter says. “One benefit of physical activity, if you allow yourself to go there, is allowing you that time to be completely off from what’s happening in the world.”
If you can essentially quiet your brain and enter a flow state—or even just succeed in putting your phone down for a few minutes—you’ll likely finish your workout feeling like a burden has been lifted. For Townsend, too, one sign of a successful session is that time flies by: “You’re not looking at your watch,” he says. “Instead, it’s like, it’s over already? How did that happen so quickly?”
17. You made a new or deeper connection with someone else.
Townsend thrives on the vibe of collective movement and aims to create visible space for people of color, the queer community, and others who don’t always see themselves represented in boutique fitness. Even in smaller classes with masks, he feels deeper bonds with others in the studio.
But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that social connections can exist outside physical proximity. Take Carter and her Peloton treadmill—by signing into a class, she feels linked to others with a goal of self-care. “I’m participating in a culture of health, virtually,” she says. “And being part of that culture, that community, feels really good.”
These associations don’t have to be in real time, either. Cheng’s online programs come with access to a Facebook group. There, she watches people who didn’t know each other at first turn into each others’ biggest cheerleaders. “It’s a big part of why they’re so successful,” she says.
18. You inspired someone else to move.
For her latest workout challenge, LaShae enlisted her husband to film videos with her, something she says not only brought them closer but has also inspired other men to sign on. Motivating your partner, kids, or friends to sweat alongside you can strengthen your relationships and empower you as a role model for a holistic, healthy lifestyle, Carter says.
19. You got in touch with music.
Studies show cranking up some music can help you work out longer and harder with less effort. Beyond that, lyrics can also reinforce powerful social messages, something Townsend’s long kept in mind when building playlists for his classes.