Exercise. We all know we should do it. But a lot of us feel like it’s something we have to do, instead of something we enjoy. And it seems as if today, many are driven by fears of weight gain to hit the elliptical and do so begrudgingly, counting down the minutes until the workout ends.

But besides preventing weight gain (which it certainly can help with), physical activity has a lot of benefits. So let’s step back from the scale for a minute and rethink our workouts.

work out

Photo by Danny Schuleman

Here are 7 benefits of exercise, none of which are related to weight loss. Read them. You might be surprised, and maybe even a little motivated, and have a new reason to hit the gym.

(And in case you’re wondering how much you need, The American College of Sports Medicine suggests healthy adults get at least 150 minutes (think 30 minutes/5 times a week, or whatever works for you) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity 5 days/week and resistance exercise (something that increases muscle strength) at least twice a week).

1. Bone health

work out

Photo courtesy of @_stephdietz on Instagram

High impact activity (think running, gymnastics, dance, soccer, tennis – anything where your bones are bearing weight) actually increases the density of your bones. Tiny cells called osteoclasts break down bones and they get rebuilt by other tiny cells called osteoblasts. Physical activity helps them come back stronger and keep them strong.

2. Mental Health

work out

Photo by Katherine Baker

As the wise Elle Woods once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy!” All jokes aside, exercise can be a mood-booster, and has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. If you suffer from mood disorders, regular exercise may help ameliorate your symptoms. Namaste, my friends. 

3. Heart Health

work out

Photo by Abigail Wilkins

There’s a reason it’s called cardio – you’re working your heart! Your heart is a muscle, and like all muscles, can get bigger and stronger with training. Working out can reduce your risks of cardiovascular disease, which is one of the top killers on the US. You only have heart – take good care of it. Love it like you do the emoji with heart eyes.

4. Stress Management

work out

Photo by Jocelyn Hsu

Exercise is one of the best ways to healthily blow off some steam when you’re stressed out. When you just can’t take it anymore, stop whatever you’re doing and go on a walk. Or maybe a run. Only you have to know what embarrassing pop jams are on your workout playlist (#bieber). Just remove yourself from the clusterfu*ks of life, get moving, and you can help manage your stress level.

5. Better sleep

work out

Photo by Judy Holtz

Trouble sleeping? Working out may not only help the ease with which you fall asleep, but can improve the efficiency of your sleep as, well.

6. Healthier Blood Lipids

work out

Photo courtesy of gawker.com

Exercise can help improve your blood lipid profiles. They decrease the bad triglycerides (lipids) and cholesterols, which can protect you from lots of icky diseases like diabetes and heart disease in the future.

7. It Can Be Fun and Doesn’t Require Real Pants

work out

Photo by Katherine Baker

Yes, it’s possible! If the thought of stepping on a treadmill makes you want to hibernate under the covers, remind yourself that there are plenty of ways to be active that don’t require a gym.

Take a brisk walk with your dog, go hiking, take a hip-hop class, stream Zumba or yoga on YouTube to your bedroom, watch trashy reality tv on a stationary bike or while doing some Pilates at home, or invite a friend to trampoline gym. Be creative and make it fun. And remember – no real pants required. #stretchypantsforever