"I'm gonna start working out!" your best friend tells you. "I want to lose a couple of pounds before summer." The association between working out and losing weight is natural; in fact, when we think of the benefits of exercise, losing weight is probably the first thing that comes to mind. While weight loss and weight management can be extremely important and help reduce your risk of developing a number of dangerous health conditions, our idea that being physically active is just a means to lose weight is all wrong. In fact, there are so many benefits of exercise - some of which you might not even know about! 

Want to hear more? Read on for some of the greatest benefits of exercising - besides losing weight. 

Stress Relief

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Whether you're in high school, college, or out on your own in the adult world, everyone experiences stress. When you're feeling anxious, you might feel more like grabbing a pint of ice cream than getting up and moving; however, getting up and about is exactly what you should do! Exercising releases serotonin in your brain, which is one of your body's feel-good hormones. Exercise also releases endorphins, which can improve your sleep quality and, thus, reduce your stress. 

Type 2 Diabetes Prevention/Management

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Caroline Ingalls

A quick health lesson: People with Type 2 diabetes are what we refer to as "insulin-resistant." Insulin is a very important hormone tasked with lowering your blood glucose levels (also known as your blood sugar levels) by helping glucose enter your body's cells. When your cells won't listen to your insulin and let in the glucose from your blood, blood sugar levels become a major issue. Thankfully, exercise not only helps you lose weight, which decreases your risk for Type 2 diabetes, but it also helps improve your insulin sensitivity, which can help you prevent and/or manage Type 2 diabetes. To get more info on the science behind insulin and exercise's relationship, check out this article from Diabetes Self-Management. 

Improved Strength, Flexibility, And Balance

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Julia Gilman

This one is important for folks of all ages. Practicing various activities that improve your flexibility, strength, and balance can not only reduce your risk of developing injuries now, but it can also reduce your risk for injuries and falls when you're older. You can improve these traits through exercises like yoga, pilates, and martial arts. Start practicing some simple stretches today, and you'll be doing toe-touches when you're ninety! 

Boosts The Immune System

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Vanessa Amendola

This one might surprise you! When we think of lifestyle habits that help keep the flu at bay, we usually think of eating foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits. Well, here's another lifestyle habit to add to the list: Exercise. Exercise can stimulate your immune system and keep your other bodily systems running smoothly, which helps promote a healthy immune system. Of course, if you're really sick, don't overdo it and wear yourself out, or you'll do more harm than good! Until then, however, "A walk a day keeps the doctor away." 

Increased Bone Density

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Jocelyn Hsu

We've all heard that we should drink milk to build strong bones, but what about exercising? Increasing your bone density is yet another item to add to our list of the benefits of exercise. Performing weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises increases your bone density and decreases your risk of developing osteomalacia and osteoporosis, which are known as the softening of your bones and the deterioration of your bone structure, respectively. Since both of these health conditions put you at a greater risk of breaking bones, increasing your bone density through physical activity and exercise is super important. Not sure where to start? The National Osteoporosis Foundation has some examples of both high- and low-impact weight-bearing exercises for you, as well as muscle-strengthening exercises. 

Improved Cardiovascular Health

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By now you're probably thinking, is there anything that exercise can't do?! Boosting your cardiovascular health is definitely another awesome thing to add to the list! Exercise has tons of cardiovascular benefits, including strengthening your heart so it pumps blood more efficiently, reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke, raising your HDL cholesterol levels (that's the good cholesterol!), and lowering your blood pressure. 

Helps Reduce The Risk Of Certain Cancers

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To wrap up our list of the benefits of exercise, let's look at how exercise can help reduce your risk of certain cancers. The weight loss, weight maintenance, and various other outcomes of being physically active and/or exercising can help reduce your risk of several types of cancer, including breast cancer, colon cancer, endometrial cancer, and prostate cancer. With cancer being such a predominant disease in the world today, being physically active is one of the simplest things anyone can do to help reduce their risk of developing certain cancers. 

In a world where so many different problems can plague us, exercise is one of the greatest medicines we can take advantage of. The benefits of exercise are practically endless, but if the seven listed above aren't enough to convince you of the importance of being physically active, then I don't know what will! 

So, are you ready to get physically active? Jumping to hop on the workout bandwagon? Head on over to SELF's article of tips for starting to exercise for the first time. Happy exercising!