38 Reasons to get fit and eat well which have nothing to do with weight loss
Did you know that by the age of 45, the average woman has tried 61 diets? We have a national obsession with weight loss, with one in four UK adults trying to lose weight 'most of the time'. That means 13 million of us are on a permanent diet (1), with 37% of women dieting most of the time and 18% of men saying they're constantly on a weight loss diet.
But whilst attaining a healthy weight is all well and good, it shouldn't be the main motivation behind getting fit and eating a healthy diet. Your weight isn't a reliable indicator of your health, and you'll actually find it easier to stick to a healthy lifestyle if you're motivated by wanting to feel better about yourself or achieve improved overall health, rather than focusing solely on weight loss.
We've come up with 38 reasons to get fit and eat well which have absolutely zip, zilch, nada to do with losing weight - so here they are!
Reasons to Get Fit
#1. It can reduce anxiety and stress
Eating a tub of ice cream on the sofa won't do wonders for your health and it also won't help to relieve stress and anxiety, no matter how much you think it does! In fact, a workout has been scientifically proven to lower your body's levels of the stress hormone cortisol and can also help to calm a troubled, anxious mind (2).
#2. It makes your heart stronger
Research shows that regular exercise can help to strengthen your heart - in fact, it could even repair damage caused by a heart attack, according to a study by researchers at Liverpool John Moore's University. Just 30 minutes of cycling or running a day could partially repair the damage caused by heart disease or failure (3).
#3. It keeps your vision healthy
Recent research carried out in Atlanta has shown that regular exercise can help to reduce your risk of age-related vision problems. A study carried out on mice showed that active mice retained twice as many retinal neurons as mice which enjoyed a couch-potato lifestyle, and studies have revealed a similar correlation for us too (4).
#4. It makes bones stronger
Bone density might not be the most exciting topic in the world, but strong bones are vital to maintain a healthy body. Weight-bearing exercises such as dancing and running are the best way to reduce your risk of osteoporosis (brittle bones) and fractures in later life. One study found that even moderate exercise can lead to improved bone density (5).
#5. It improves your self-confidence
If your self-esteem is at an all-time low, working out can help to give you a boost. Not only will it make you look better (clear, glowing skin and a toned body, anyone?), it can also make you feel better about yourself on the inside, boosting your confidence levels both at work and in your personal life and ensuring that you have fewer negative thoughts about your body (6).
#6. It helps you get a great night's sleep
A good night's sleep is vital if you want to stay happy and healthy. Whilst we sleep, our bodies repair themselves and hopefully leave us feeling refreshed when we wake up (ok, so maybe you need a cup of tea to get going). Exercise is a great way to eliminate bouts of insomnia and it can improve the quality of your sleep.
#7. It boosts good fat and banishes bad fat
It's easy to assume all fat is bad - as a society, we've been conditioned to hear the word 'fat' and automatically shudder. But there are good fats out there - such as the fats found in coconuts, olive oil and avocados. Research has revealed that female thigh fat can actually have hormonal benefits (7). But fat around your middle is bad news - it puts you at increased risk of heart disease. The good news is that belly fat can easily be blasted away by regular exercise, so try our Morning Abs Workout!
#8. It can make you smarter
There's a myth going around that bodybuilders and personal trainers are dumb - far from it! In fact, a study on the effects of exercise on the brain revealed that fitness can help your body to build brain cells, increases brain volume, boosts cognition and could even improve your memory! Working out regularly can help reduce your risk of cognitive decline in old age as well as cutting your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (8).
#9. It's a natural antidepressant
Whether you're affected by SAD or suffer from severe depression, exercise can help. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise can help improve symptoms of depression. In one study, 60 to 70% of participants were free of symptoms of depression after just four months of regular aerobic exercise (9). So get to the gym or get outside for a run if you're suffering from the winter blues - it could really help!
#10. It can boost creativity
Suffering from writer's block or unable to finish that work presentation? Light exercise such as walking can actually help to boost creativity, so down tools and get outside for a walk around the block and the opportunity to soak up some vitamin D.
#11. It helps break addiction cycles
Addicted to nicotine, sugar or something harder? It can be difficult to break the cycle and kick bad habits to the kerb. But exercise can be used to break the cycle of addiction. The rush of endorphins released by exercise can have the same effect on our neural pathways as addictive substance (10). So you could find yourself choosing a workout at the gym over that sugar donut...
#12. It makes you live longer
Whilst longevity isn't guaranteed, it's a well-known fact that those who exercise generally live longer. In fact, you could add as much as seven years to your life just by including three 50-minute workouts in your weekly routine, whilst also cutting your risk of heart disease (11).
#13. It can boost fertility
Even if trying for a baby isn't on the cards right now, you can look after your reproductive health by getting regular exercise. Researchers from Harvard discovered that men who exercise regularly had higher concentrations of above-average quality sperm present in their semen (12), whilst women who regularly workout also benefit from a fertility boost. It's all about balance though, as women who workout too often could impair their fertility - we recommend an hour around three times a week.
#14. It helps you manage pain
We've all suffered from back, shoulder or neck pain at some point, but living with chronic pain is a different matter. Exercising moderately can be beneficial for those suffering from chronic pain (13) and can help you to manage pain both in the short and longer term - just make sure it's gentle, moderate exercise.
#15. It helps you socialise
If your life is a blur of work-eat-sleep-repeat, you really need to find a work/life balance! Regular exercise can help you to find time in your busy schedule to socialise with friends (or meet new people) whilst reducing stress and making you feel good. Try fitness challenges, bootcamps or team sports to add a social element to your workout.
Reasons to Eat Well
#16. It reduces PMS symptoms
Whether you suffer from bloating, cramps or uncontrollable rage due to PMS, you'll find natural nutritional remedies can help. For bloating, try fibre-packed fruit and vegetables, whilst foods loaded with magnesium can reduce cramps and calcium from dairy products can help you to feel calmer (14).
#17. It banishes the blues
Researchers from New Zealand conducted a study of young adults, carried out over 21 days, to see what effect food consumption had on mood. Results showed that participants reported increased energy levels and happiness on days they ate more fruit and vegetables (15). So swapping your cupcake for a banana is a wise move.
#18. It could cure IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, can cause constipation, bloating, diarrhoea and pain. But there's a link between your gut bacteria and your risk of developing IBS, researchers have discovered. Eating probiotics regularly helped most sufferers with symptoms - try adding probiotic yoghurt to fruit or taking daily supplements.
#19. It can increase your smarts
Including oily fish in your diet feeds your brain with omega-3 fatty acids which can boost brain power and even help to prevent memory loss in old age.
#20. It can help you relax
Tryptophan, found in foods such as turkey, oats, eggs, dairy, dark chocolate and fish, can help you to relax and unwind - even helping you get a better night's sleep.
#21. It promotes clear skin
Adult acne is surprisingly common and your diet could be the cause. Eating dairy, processed grains and sugar could lead to acne and rosacea. Research shows that eliminating these foods from your diet could help clear up the problem (16).
#22. It can relieve sore muscles
Sore muscles after a workout are par for the course, right? Not necessarily. What you eat can affect how quickly your muscles recover, and research shows that it's vital to eat enough protein, which helps to repair and build muscle. Perhaps surprisingly, blueberries also helped to offer some relief (17).
#23. It reduces junk food cravings
Starting the day with a healthy, protein-packed breakfast can help to reduce your cravings for unhealthy food throughout the day. A study revealed that eating a healthy breakfast loaded with protein, such as an omelette, increases dopamine levels in the brain, giving you feelings of happiness and satisfaction and regulating your appetite (18).
#24. It can help you run faster
Whether you're training for a marathon or just love your morning run, the way you eat can affect your speed. One study found that people who ate a Mediterranean diet (rich in olive oil, nuts and fish) had improved running endurance and better cardiovascular health (19).
#25. It boosts your immune system
We can't avoid germs; they're everywhere. But getting your five-a-day can give your immune system a boost. Research revealed that those who ate more fruit and vegetables were ill less often, even if they ate other, unhealthy foods too (20).
#26. It keeps your bones strong
For strong bones in old age, a diet packed with folic acid (found in leafy greens), vitamin D and calcium (from dairy products) can help reduce your risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
#27. It makes you feel good
Eating well just makes you feel good. Think about how you feel after eating a bag of Doritos or a slice of chocolate cheesecake - after the initial high, you feel tired, grouchy and sluggish. Well, eating healthily - plenty of fruit and vegetables plus protein - can leave you feeling energised, motivated and ready for that fitness challenge!
#28. It can make your children smarter
If you're pregnant, eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids could mean your child will have a higher IQ than mums-to-be who don't eat seafood. That's reason enough to try one of our sushi recipes (avoid raw fish though) or cook some healthy prawns for dinner!
#29. It boosts your workout
Eating better helps you to workout harder. Because a workout is tough on your body, eating the right diet - plenty of protein to build and maintain muscles and carbs to boost endurance - can help your body to heal and grow stronger.
#30. It gives you loads of energy
#31. It can help you sleep
It's estimated that around half of all adults experience at least one bout of insomnia that lasts for over three weeks. and sleep deprivation can leave you feeling drained, exhausted and moody. A study on the effects of tart cherry juice revealed that drinking a glass twice a day for two weeks could help to increase your sleep time by up to 90 minutes (21).
#32. It gives your sex life oomph!
We all know that oysters are supposed to be an aphrodisiac - but there isn't actually any scientific backing to this. Now researchers believe that spices such as ginger and saffron could improve sexual desire and performance for both men and women (22) - just one more reason to ditch your Indian takeaway and whip up a healthy, home-made curry this weekend!
#33. It can 'fix' DNA
A new study has revealed that a balanced diet could actually affect your DNA, by 'turning off' bad DNA. This could lead to long-term benefits not only for your own health, but also for future generations, such as a reduced risk of heart disease (23).
#34. It makes you more productive
A recent study found that eating an unhealthy diet could put you at a 66% increased risk of productivity loss! So you could find you're getting less done at work, which can raise your stress levels (24).
#35. Your taste buds will change
As you cut refined sugar and other nasties out of your diet, you'll start to crave them less and your taste buds will adapt to new, fresh flavours. Research shows that we're automatically programmed to believe healthier food tastes better anyway - in one blind test, participants claimed to prefer the taste of organic coffee compared to regular coffee, when in fact both cups were the same (25).
#36. You'll save money
Okay, so living on a diet of the finest organic produce and meat may cost you a little more, it's true (although you'll quickly learn how to save on your weekly shop), but you'll find you spend less on medicine and your health, as you'll be ill less often - and no nutritional supplements are needed!
#37. You'll reduce your risk of chronic diseases
Eating an unhealthy diet in the long-term can increase your risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes. One study estimated that diet plays a contributory factor in up to 40% of all cancers (26).
#38. You'll have a more positive attitude
Taking control of your eating habits can help you to feel more in control of your life and more positive as a result. When you stock your kitchen with healthy food, you'll feel better and should find you're able to better cope with stressful situations.